LAS VEGAS – Gray Maynard looked like he'd have rather been anywhere than sharing a cage in a fight with Nate Diaz on Saturday.
Diaz felt the same way, but he turned in one of the great performances of his career and stopped Maynard after a series of strikes in the first round of their bout at The Ultimate Fighter Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Diaz had wanted to attend his high school reunion, but skipped it to take on Maynard, a former lightweight-title challenger, in a rubber match. It turned out to be no contest, as Diaz overwhelmed Maynard and forced referee Yves Lavigne to stop the bout.
As good as he looked, though, Diaz wasn't keen on fighting. He wanted to attend his reunion.
"It would have been cool to go there [to my reunion], but I was broke, so I had to show up [to fight]," Diaz said.
And he fought as well as he has in his long career. He caught Maynard with a nice judo throw early in the fight before then using his punching accuracy to set up the finish.
Typical of Diaz, though, he didn't want to hang around much to celebrate. He was being interviewed by Jon Anik in the cage on Fox Sports 1 shortly after the match ended, but cut it short.
"[Expletive] it," Diaz said, abruptly ending the interview. "I got [expletive] to do. I'm hungry."
Diaz deserved a meal fit for a king after a brilliant effort that once again made him a factor in the crowded lightweight division.
He came into the bout on a two-fight losing streak – a one-sided decision loss in a title fight against Benson Henderson and a knockout defeat at the hands of Josh Thomson in April.
Diaz is successful, though, because he has a short memory and tremendous belief in himself. After he mauled Maynard, he was prancing around the ring proclaiming himself and Gilbert Melendez as the two best lightweights in the world.
That ability to shake off losses is essential for any athlete, and no one forgets a loss easier than Diaz.
"I know we're the top two guys," Diaz said of Melendez and himself.
He had little trouble with Maynard, who looked like a shell of the fighter who was on verge of winning the title from Frankie Edgar at UFC 125 on New Year's Day 2011.
He's lost two in a row and three of his last four, all by knockout.
Still, he was ranked fifth in the division and that fact wasn't lost on Diaz.
"It was a top-10 guy and I got the job done quick," Diaz said. "That was the objective."
Diaz has been known for his superior conditioning and his accuracy in his career, but he hasn't been known as a heavy puncher.
Diaz intentionally takes something off his fastball, preferring accuracy over knockout power. But he was bringing the heat to Maynard on Saturday. Maynard reeled around the cage, never really defending himself. Diaz followed in hot pursuit, firing lefts and rights, most of which landed on the chin.
"I feel like I hit hard all the time, but sometimes I get going and instead of going always for a full-blown power shot, I go for a lot more accurate punches," he said. "But if I slow it down and try to hit hard, I can hit you hard."
Diaz believes he did enough to get himself back into the title picture. He suggested unhappiness with the way some fighters have gotten title shots as injury replacements and said he might try a similar path.
It's unlikely, given how much he loves to fight, but he also wants a shot at gold.
"I don't know, but I'm thinking I'll sit on the sidelines for a good long minute until somebody gets injured so I can fight for a title, like everyone else is doing," he said. "I lose some fights sometimes, and I do have a lot of losses on my record. … If you take a look at my record compared to other people's records, for every two fights [they have] I have six, seven fights.
"If they were fighting the same amount, and as consistent as I am, they're going to have more losses than me."
Notes: In the co-main event, Julianna Pena stormed Jessica Rakoczy early and stopped her at 4:59 of the first to become the first women's Ultimate Fighter winner.
Chris Holdsworth submitted Davey Grant with a rear naked choke in the second round to win the men's title.