SEATTLE — Nate Diaz tugged his black-rimmed hat low over his mangled right eye as he settled into his chair at the UFC on FOX 5 post-fight press conference.
Less than an hour before, Diaz was left to blearily gaze up at the arena video screens as the final few seconds of the clock wound down on a lethargic loss to UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, all on national television. Diaz entered the bout riding a string of three commanding victories, however the fighter that dismantled Donald Cerrone and choked out Jim Miller was nowhere to be found in Seattle, and the one who took his place struggled mightily to find any sense of rhythm against Henderson’s relentless pace.
“I didn’t perform the way I wish I could have,” Diaz admitted afterward. “I got a punch in the eye pretty early in the fight and things were blurry. They never came back. I was waiting for it to recover, and when it did I was going to come back strong. But it never did. Ben did great. He landed the good shot early.
“If I would have tried to get up with anything, or tried to aggress too hard, I think things could’ve gotten worse. Like I said, I was trying to wait for the eye to recover, until I could see straight. Because I knew it was coming back and I knew I was going to come back strong from it, but I never did. I ran out of time with it, and it sucks. But whatever, that’s what happens. Good job, man.”
The lone bright spot for Diaz over the course of 25 lopsided minutes was a string of leglock attempts midway through the third round, which briefly put Henderson on the defensive.
“I probably should’ve went a little harder for some of the kneebar and heel hook (attempts) for the finish,” reflected Diaz. “I’ve seen him in fights get out of stuff, so at the same time I was kind of indecisive about going all out, going hard and, you know, I didn’t want to work too hard for something I wasn’t going to get.”
Cageside doctors ultimately became concerned about Diaz’s bloated right eye after the end of the fourth round, though the fight was never in danger of being stopped.
Regardless, after sitting out most of 2012 waiting for a title shot, Diaz now hopes to jump back into the fray as quickly as his body allows.
“As soon as this eye heals up, I’m ready to go.”
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