Sunday, April 21, 2013 | 12:40 a.m.
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At an event that tied the UFC record with eight fights finished by knockout, Josh Thomson had the best one of all.
The hometown fighter, making his first UFC appearance in nine years, became the only man to ever knock out Nate Diaz. And Thomson accomplished it with such viciousness that Diaz’s notoriously hard-nosed teammates threw a towel into the octagon before the referee could even stop the fight.
“I didn’t see it going this way at all,” Thomson said afterward. “I played the fight in my head over 100 times and, honestly, probably 50 of those times I lost.”
Thomson was never losing his UFC on Fox 7 main-card bout once it got under way. “The Punk” kept the man who fought for the UFC lightweight title four months ago off-balance by evading his advances in the first round and blasting him with an arsenal of kicks.
The leg strikes were an omen. When Thomson established the correct range in the second round, he blasted Diaz with a head kick that sent him crashing to the ground.
Thomson followed with ground-and-pound punches and elbows, but Diaz was already out.
“I made sure I fought a smart fight,” Thomson said. “And I picked him apart. That was what was in my mind, making sure I implemented my game plan.”
Reports circulated after the event that Diaz suffered a cut on the top of his head so deep that bone was exposed. UFC President Dana White had no information on Diaz’s injury, as he didn’t see or talk to the typically outspoken fighter before he left HP Pavilion.
White did, however, share that he hoped Diaz would stay at lightweight. The younger Diaz brother said earlier in the week that he wanted to move back up to welterweight no matter what happened at UFC on Fox 7.
“Big, strong guys at 170,” White said. “Look at what happened tonight at 155.”
What happened was Diaz ran into a potent combination of desire, talent and focus from his opponent. The reason Thomson envisioned himself losing all those times was so he could “be prepared for every scenario.”
Diaz resorted to his standard juvenile tactics after getting frustrated in the first round — cursing at and taunting Thomson repeatedly. Thomson said he would have given in and found himself in a brawl with Diaz several times earlier in his career.
But he knew to ignore it all Saturday.
“I didn’t get caught in the banter and all the other crap,” Thomson said. “Just go out there and do my job, and when I do that, I feel like I’m one of the best guys in the world.”
Thomson briefly lobbied for a title shot after the win, but it will instead go to the winner of a UFC 160 bout between Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant. Thomson wasn’t too disappointed, as having a secure job with the UFC and a $50,000 Knockout of the Night bonus check were quite the conciliation prizes.
The former Strikeforce champion admitted he wished he stayed the UFC in the first place, after going 2-1 from 2003 to 2004. But Thomson, at the time, felt like he could make more money and advance his career quicker elsewhere.
He now vows to never leave the octagon again.
“It’s just like coming home,” Thomson said. “I started my career here, and I’m 100 percent sure I’m going to finish it here.”