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UFC 137: A card gone mad

UFC 137 already out-bizarres most cards that have stood before it.

The main event features one original headliner -- but it was a massive detour to arrive at the same spot for Nick Diaz. To rehash the chain of events would be laborious, but in a nutshell he went from sellable challenge for Georges St. Pierre to flake to the Internet shrink chair, through the back door in the kitchen to a subject of psychiatric concern, down a Stockton highway to a co-main event with B.J. Penn, and from the company doghouse back to main event without ever breaking from his scowl.

In other words, he remained perfectly as he was -- and as he’s always been -- while the world crumbled and then resurrected around him. This is how things go. Drama is ours; he’s just Nick.

Everyone knows by now that there’s no normal when Diaz is on a fight card. In fact, if nothing happened -- if he showed up punctually to events and spoke coherently on pressing matters -- we’d fear something was wrong with him, that his heart wasn’t in it anymore. As is, he’s a spectacle that becomes almost a guilty pleasure after multiple views; when he’s not flipping off Frank Shamrock with his lip out to here, he’s vaguely threatening reporters to keep out of the 209. He doesn’t have a lot of sponsors, but he has lots of sponsorship money. To that point, he’s the brokest well-paid fighter going, and he’s always too distracted to get into specifics. As Damon Martin of MMA Weekly says, these are “Diazisms.”

The fight game would be nothing if it didn’t have a left field. And that’s half of Diaz’s appeal; prodding him can’t be anything other than fun.

The other half, of course, is that he can fight. And he’ll fight you the way you want to fight, up to you. Paul Daley wanted a brawl, Diaz accommodated against conventional wisdom -- a phrase he wants nothing to do with. He wants a fight. This is a simplicity that often escapes us. He’ll do the volume jabs and slaps and open-fingered pawing to set up deceivingly hard crosses and hooks, mean-mugging his opponent the whole time. And if it’s there, he’ll take the nearest available limb and put it into an ugly position. In fact, he still has Hayato Sakurai’s arm in the trunk of his car.

In his bout with Penn on Saturday -- which was largely thought to be the best on the card even before St. Pierre and Carlos Condit was scrapped -- there’s a chance we’ll see some triple-jointed pleximan grappling moments that will make Joe Rogan do his trademark bug-eyes. It’s just as possible somebody will get knocked out. The way Diaz fights, it’s a 50/50 proposition it could be him.

But if there’s ever been a more technical fighter shrouded in thuggery, it’s Diaz. It might appear 50/50, but he didn’t win 10 straight fights by throwing hot dice. When you fight as though your life is at stake, as if it’s not virtual but actual survival, you tend to mix up the things you’ve learned with the things that are native to your instincts. He knows how to let the one yield to the other.

Diaz brings it. He takes it. He just wants to fight.

Nothing different this time though. UFC 137 may seem like a crazy set of circumstances that will finally get a chance to play out this weekend in Las Vegas. But for Diaz, it’s just a fight, and you can read into things as you see fit. He doesn’t care, homie.