Above: Nick Diaz and Braulio Estima will compete in a no-gi superfight at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo.
Nick Diaz has made a name for himself in MMA, as one of the most candid and no holds barred fighters in and out of the cage. This is what has made him so polarizing to the masses; how real his personality and fighting style are. His fighting style truly is a reflection of who he is. Always one to speak his mind, he has wowed the MMA world with his box-you-up and choke-you-out style in the cage.
The base of Diaz’s fighting style, however, lies in his roots which is jiu-jitsu. He has no problem going toe-to-toe on his feet in MMA, with the risk of being taken down, because it’s there where he is equally dangerous.
Forged on the mats of Cesar Gracie’s school in northern California, Diaz has been one of America’s finest jiu-jitsu fighters long before he made a mark in MMA. He hasn’t had a jiu-jitsu or submission grappling match in 2 years, but he has faced some very good black belts in his day, such as Lucas Leite and Jorge "Macaco" Patino.
In his long-awaited return to the jiu-jitsu competition mats at the World Jiu-Jitsu Expo on Saturday, May 12th, 2012, Diaz has been given and has fully welcomed the most difficult challenge possible facing anyone in this form of combat. He will be facing Gracie Barra’s world champion Braulio Estima.
Braulio Estima has been widely considered the best submission grappler in the world for the past 3 years and he deserves this lofty praise without question. Braulio had already established himself as one of the best jiu-jitsu black belts in the world before this time, but his run at ADCC 2009 cemented his legacy.
It was there that he won the coveted ADCC double: his weight class and the absolute. In taking his weight class, Braulio defeated Yuji Arai, James Brasco, Rafael Lovato Jr., and Andre Galvão. He then immediately followed that success by besting Janne-Pekka Pietiläinen, Marcelo Garcia, Vinny Magalhães, and Xande Ribeiro in the absolute. The absolute win also gave him the right to face Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at ADCC 2011 in a superfight. Braulio would win that match as well.
Since the Nick Diaz vs. Braulio Estima superfight was announced over a month ago, many have been wondering if Diaz has what it takes to last with Braulio Estima, who is currently the best in the world. While Braulio is truly a beast on the mats, Diaz is certainly going to make things interesting, which is why we have decided to analyze and breakdown this match in 20 categories. Both grapplers will be rated on a scale of 0 to 5 in each category. A score of 100 would mean they are a perfect grappler. This scale will give us a more accurate view on how close their skill sets are headed into Saturday’s showdown.
These two have always been known for their quickness, but they aren’t quite at the speed of someone like Marcelo Garcia or Rafael Mendes. This match should be fast paced and action-packed. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 4.5
Estima has acquitted himself nicely against some of the strongest grapplers in the world in winning the -88 kg (194 lbs) and Absolute divisions at ADCC 2009. Diaz has never been known for overpowering his opponents, but possesses surprising strength in his lean build. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 4.0
Neither of these two grapplers have been known for top wrestling skills, but both have been developing their takedown abilities over the years. Estima 4.0 | Diaz 4.0
When on top of you, both have the ability to apply immense downward pressure with their hips to keep you there or take your back, while they look to finish you. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 4.5
This is where both men excel. Estima has the more diverse guard, which sees him play various guard sets as he looks for the submission or sweep. Diaz prefers more of an old school approach of immobilizing you inside his guard, while he looks for the submission. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
Estima has submitted some of the best grapplers on the planet with his wide array of chokes. In the finals of the -88 kg division at ADCC 2009, he submitted eventual ADCC 2011 two-division champ Andre Galvão with an inverted triangle choke, as Galvão was trying to pass. While Diaz seems to prefer extending joints, no one can forget how in MMA he submitted PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi with a gogoplata during the height of Gomi’s reign. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.5
Estima is known for his patented Helicopter Armbar. He has been submitting the best in his divisions with this technique, since his early days in the sport. While Diaz does not possess the same level of notable wins by armlock in grappling as Estima, he has shown he likes using Armbars and Kimuras to secure wins during his MMA career. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.5
While Estima has shown he is very adept in the leglock game, which saw him kneebar Rafael Lovato Jr. during his ADCC 2009 title run, he has never favored the leglock game like Diaz. Diaz has been training with Sambo master Val Ignatov for over 12 years and has submitted the likes of OTM co-founder Alan "Gumby" Maques, as well as Jorge "Macaco" Patino via kneebar. The submission over Macaco came when Diaz was only a purple belt and Macaco was a black belt. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 5.0
This is an aspect of jiu-jitsu that neither prefer to win by, but is necessary to know at the highest level of the sport. Estima has beaten very strong wrestlers at their own game and even out-pointed Jacare last fall, when the rest of the match appeared to be razor-close. This is a style of fighting that Diaz openly frowns upon and avoids, but he has steadily been adopting some of its principles. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.0
While Estima is clealy a gifted athlete, who is now getting ready to make his MMA debut later this year, it would be hard for anyone to reach the level of Diaz’s athletic credentials. When he is not training for a top-level fight in the UFC or getting ready for a superfight with Estima, he can be found regularly competing in triathlons. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 5.0
Neither of these men have ever had an issue with their gas tanks in competition. Estima won 8 matches in two days at ADCC 2009 against the best graplers in the world, while Diaz is an MMA war horse that competes in the aforementioned triathlons. He also does Xterra mountain biking trips, as part of his training routine. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
Both of these men wear shiny suits of armor when they go to battle. Their opponents are usually too much on the defensive to seriously threaten them. It should also be noted that Diaz has never been submitted in MMA, jiu-jitsu, or submission grappling competition. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
Both men prepare themselves for combat like true professionals, while avoiding serious injuries. Estima outlasted Xande in the finals of the ADCC absolute, when Xande went down with an injury. Diaz, on the other hand, has endured a lot more wear-and-tear on his body during bloody and memorable MMA wars with the likes of B.J. Penn, Paul Daley, and Frank Shamrock. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.5
Estima has never been pulled into drama or trash talking before his matches, while Diaz has embraced it. Those that know Diaz, know that he is great guy, but he has also used trash talking before and during the fight as a way to frustrate his opponents. Diaz seems to thrive off of grudge matches. This match, however, has no bad blood and both men will be poised and ready to go. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
Estima is a consumate finisher. Like Diaz, he is constantly hunting for a submission until the final tick on the timer goes off. The separating factor here comes from Diaz’s street fighter mentality and long career in MMA, where he has been the victim of some bad judge’s decisions. This has only heightened the already deadly killer instinct inside of him. If Diaz smells blood, he will not let you off the hook. Estima 4.5 | Diaz 5.0
Estima has shown he can game plan on the fly, like he did for the various styles of grapplers he faced during his run at ADCC 2009, as well as game plan well in advance of a match like he did against Jacare for their superfight at ADCC 2011 last September. Diaz only uses one game plan whether it’s MMA, jiu-jitsu, or submission grappling, look for the finish. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.5
Both of these guys are ninjas on the mat. Estima’s aforementioned reverse (upside down) triangle choke submission victory over Galvão in the finals of his -88 kg division at ADCC 2009 is something you will one day be telling your grandchildren you witnessed. Likewise, Diaz’s previously referenced gogoplata submission victory of Gomi in PRIDE, during Gomi’s prime, was equally impressive. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
While both men are world-class jiu-jitsu black belts, Estima has the clear experience advantage by being a multi-division champion at ADCC and a three-time world champion in the gi. He has faced the best in the world and has beaten the best in the world. Diaz has some solid submission grappling matches to go with his storied MMA career, but Estima is clealy the more experienced grappler. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.0
Quality of Opponents
The quality of Estima’s opponents is hard for anyone in the world to match. Jacare, Rafael Lovato Jr., Andre Galvão, Marcelo Garcia, Vinny Magalhães, and Xande Ribeiro is just the short list of world champions Estima has faced and defeated in this sport. Diaz has faced some quality opponents, such as Lucas Leite, Alan "Gumby" Marques, and Jorge "Macaco" Patino, but the difference between who Estima has faced and who Diaz has faced in submission grappling is clear for all to see. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 4.0
Estima will be cornered by his brother Victor Estima, Roger Gracie, and he will have a large number of Gracie Barra students and fans cheering him on. On the other hand, Diaz is from California and will have his brother Nate Diaz, Cesar Gracie, and several Gracie Fighter students and fans cheering him on. This category is a wash, as both men will have equally impressive corners. Estima 5.0 | Diaz 5.0
Now that we have broken down this superfight, you may have noticed two things. The first being that both Nick Diaz and Braulio Estima are honor roll students in the world of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. The second being that while Estima does have a clear edge in overall points as many expected, he does not have an edge in every category. Diaz will surprise a lot of people with his physical tougness, gameness, and underrated technical ability. Estima may have to weather an early threat or two, but his class, backed by his superior experience and momentum, should allow him to adapt to Diaz’s game and propel him to victory via points. Estima 96.0 | Diaz 92.0