NEW YORK -- The fight was excellent. Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz came away as bigger stars than they were before the card started, yet the fans at UFC 244 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden went home unhappy.
Masvidal got the win via TKO due to a doctor's stoppage before the start of the fourth round. Diaz had a bad cut over his right eye, and the New York State Athletic Commission ringside physician advised referee Dan Miragliotta to stop the bout. Fans started to boo, and it continued as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wrapped the BMF belt around Masvidal's waist.
Masvidal asked the crowd not to boo him and said he and Diaz would have an immediate rematch. It certainly wasn't the result anyone wanted, but Masvidal definitely was in control after three rounds and did by far the most damage. Diaz said that he would like to run the fight back as well.
Is that the right choice? Should the UFC do Masvidal vs. Diaz II right away? UFC president Dana White said he's not interested in an immediate rematch. Should the two go their separate ways for the time being and maybe let the UFC come back to it later? Let's take a look at the possibilities for both men.
Result: Defeated Nate Diaz via third-round TKO (doctor's stoppage)
There's little else for Masvidal to do in the welterweight division. He flatlined Darren Till and Ben Askren viciously, and now he owns a win over Diaz for the mythical BMF title. In 16 years in MMA, Masvidal has never been better, and his star has never shined brighter. The former backyard brawler from Miami is one of the biggest names in the sport and could become a household name with this victory at Madison Square Garden, despite the fight's anticlimactic ending.
Masvidal can go in two ways next, if it's not a Diaz rematch. One would be for the UFC welterweight title. Usman will defend that belt against Covington, Masvidal's friend-turned-enemy, in the main event of UFC 245 on Dec. 14 in Las Vegas. Masvidal is a pretty clear top contender at this point, and fighting the winner of that fight -- especially if it's a grudge match with Covington -- would make all the sense in the world for him.
The other option? The biggest money fight Masvidal can get: Conor McGregor. There are a few hurdles for that one, more than there would be for a welterweight title fight. McGregor is targeted to return Jan. 18 against an opponent to be named, though all signs point to Donald Cerrone. Would the UFC adjust plans and slide Masvidal into that spot if that were what he wanted? Crazier things have happened. Would McGregor's team be into that fight right now? That's possible. McGregor did have the Masvidal-Diaz winner on his list of potential opponents in 2020.
Although the ball is likely to be in Masvidal's court, the more likely, stable possibility still seems to be the welterweight title. Money rules all, though, in the end. This is prizefighting, after all. There's no prize -- not even a UFC title -- as big as fighting McGregor.
Masvidal was skeptical at the post-fight news conference that McGregor would want to get in a cage with him. "I'll f--- that little guy up, man," he said. "I get it why people want to see him hurt, because of the stunts he's been pulling, but he don't want this. He's just talking so he can get his name out there.
"He was cheering for Nate. He wanted to run it back with Nate. You think he's at home seeing that fight saying 'I want to fight that dude'? ... You see he punches old people in the face because those are the fights he could win."
Masvidal opens cut on Diaz with early combo
Jorge Masvidal unleashes a powerful elbow that leads to a combo that finishes with a kick to the face. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.
Result: Lost to Jorge Masvidal via third-round TKO (doctor's stoppage)
Who should be next: Masvidal or Dustin Poirier
Diaz remains one of the most compelling people in the UFC, someone hard-core and casual fans alike have rallied around. It's still incredible that someone such as Diaz, 15 years into his career, was the A-side on one of the biggest UFC cards of the year at Madison Square Garden. Even in defeat, he doesn't lose a ton of drawing power. The fans were clamoring for two more rounds. Diaz excels late in fights. Few people left MSG comfortable with a Diaz defeat.
I got Nate next if they don't book the rematch.— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) November 3, 2019
What he does lose is a bit of leverage with the UFC. The last time he lost, he didn't return for almost three years. Maybe something like that will happen. Maybe he will wait a long time before finding the right opponent -- and the right price -- for yet another comeback. Diaz himself might not know the next steps, though in his heart he likely wants that Masvidal rematch. He said so emphatically in the Octagon.
There will be options out there for Diaz. The McGregor trilogy is perpetually only a few machinations from becoming a reality. But how about this idea: Poirier, who is coming off a loss to lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. It might have to happen at 170 or a catchweight -- Diaz does not want to drop to lightweight again -- but Poirier got plenty of attention by blasting Diaz's atypical drug test finding last week. The two were tied together for last year's MSG card, but the fight fell apart. They might as well try to put it together if the UFC goes in another direction with Masvidal, and Poirier tweeted out that he'd be up for it.