Nate Diaz vs Michael Johnson Breakdown and the Stockton Slap

Nate Diaz has just returned with a win against Michael Johnson recently at the time of this writing, so I’m here today to give a closer look at the technical battle that went down. This fight was emotionally driven for these fighters considering their backstage confrontation how much Nate’s consistent taunting affected Micheal Johnson’s concentration.

Nate Diaz played a rather efficient game by using his physical reach well to transition between different ranges. His execution wasn’t always successful but for the Diaz brothers, eating a few shots here and there doesn’t bother them mentally in a fight.

We’ll be taking a look at the use of range and Diaz’ offense. Then lastly, at the end of this piece, I want to mention something rather strange about his Stockton slap (which I’ll go deeper into this later on).

This fight was rather straight forward, but let’s get right into this. First, we start with his stance. Nate has a very strong tendency to being linear with his stance. The drawback to that is when your stance is too linear, it becomes to difficult to check kicks because your stance isn’t squared up for your legs to lift up and out to block kicks. If you followed Diaz’ career, you’d know how much difficulty he’s had with eating kicks because of this.

nate posture broken from kick.gif
Johnson breaks Diaz’ linear posture after the leg kick


There is, however a specific benefit for using a linear stance. By being linear in your stance, you have a supportive back leg for leaning backwards. Also, it allows your upper body to leave the pocket while keeping the lower body in the pocket for you to transition quickly back into range if you decide to.

diaz stance pic.png
(Rough sketch) note that the linear stance offers better stability for pulling the head back.

In addition to Diaz’ linear stance, he uses a slightly crouched forward position.  By having the posture slightly forward, the opponent will use that as a reference to target that area. When you have greater range than the opponent, you can slightly pull back and counter them after they strike. The combination of his crouched position and linear stance allowed him to use simultaneous counters against Johnson while pulling his upper body back.


nate jab, pull back lead hook counter.gif
Diaz slightly forward posture, pulls the upper body back while simultaneously countering with the lead hook hoping to catch Johnson.

Diaz utilized his posture to catch Johnson well with his stiff jabs, always ready to return back to a neutral stance and controlling that distance.

nate pops jabs and retreats.gif

Nate also used his jab to  bait Johnson into approaching into his counter lead hook range.


nate jab bait into hook counter comp 2.gif
Nate throws the Jab to bait Johnson into advancing, then proceeds to throw a counter lead hook


The Offensive Approaches

Diaz even tried to time his retreating lead hook counter many times by chaining it with his cross or one-two combos. To some degree, he would occasionally land this combo. When an opponent throws the cross, it is the ideal time to return counter to them since they head must reset their head to a neutral stance. Diaz knowing this, often tried to counter the sequence where Johnson tried to counter Diaz’ cross.

nate cross, retreating hook comp.gif
Throws a cross, awaits to throw a retreating lead hook counter as Johnson tries to attack

The only issue with using this repeatedly is that after throwing the cross, you have to bring the head back to the neutral stance to follow up with the lead hook counter. Bringing the head back to the neutral stance is the sequence when your head is in a angle where the opponent can return counters. Diaz had used this sequence so many times that he started to have mixed results, often getting caught when he got his counter rhythm broken by Johnson’s own returns.

nate cross, rolling hook caught comp.gif

Diaz did find success with other offensive entries such as his transitioning into a clinch after throwing a cross.

nate cross into clinch.gif

Diaz also found success in creating space by pulling away or weaving out after throwing the cross. In those sequences, he was more successful at minimizing returns. Using his range at this point gave Diaz a better way to control the striking while frustrating Johnson.

nate one two escape comp.gif
throwing the cross and evasive head exiting

The Stockton Slaps

Nate had plenty of solid opportunities to land with a solid fist, but had a strong tendency to go for a open palm slap instead of creating a solid closed fist. Here are instances where he could have landed a solid fist but decided to go down the Stockton slap route.

nate stockon slap comp.gif
Stockton slaps

Many of these sequences were technically sound opportunities to land a solid fist. Pretty much all the technical sequences I explained earlier can be seen in the Stockton slap examples, but the only difference is that he’s slapping instead of punching.

After his victory, he made a rather big impression in his post fight interview with Joe Rogan by calling out Conor McGregor.

(Video from MMA Tube)

This is a fight that people would love to see considering the potential drama behind it. The trash talk, the constant clowning they’d be doing in the fight would be a spectacle, but how do they stack up stylistically? Conor McGregor conventions for approaching offensively would certainly be different compared to Johnson but that can be left to speculation for now.

(Conor McGregor’s style breakdown can be found here in this list: list of breakdowns  )


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