When the main event of UFC 244 hits the octagon in New York City's Madison Square Garden this Saturday, the promotion will be chartering new territory in more ways than one.
The card is headlined by a Welterweight bout between Jorge 'Gamebred' Masvidal (34-13) and Nate Diaz (21-11) for the 'BMF' title - short for 'Baddest Mother (expletive)' - made especially for this bout.
Even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson will be on hand to anoint the newly minted 'baddest man on the planet' with the belt.
"What makes MMA so cool is that its a good mix of sport and spectacle, and this one skews more towards spectacle, "TSN's Aaron Bronsteter told Let's Talk Sports Radio. "The cool thing about this is you have a main event that is a non-title fight on one of the biggest cards of the year, Madison Square Garden, on just name value, which is so good to see in MMA, and I hope happens more often."
"The UFC is so hung up on making all these title fights for Pay-Per-View, and I just don't think it's necessary. You can make big fights that fans want to see without having a title on the line. That's what makes this card such an intriguing proposition."
Masvidal, 34, is a mixed martial arts journeyman, fighting in his 48th professional bout, having competed in both Strike Force, Bellator and the streets of Miami before joining the UFC in 2013. After returning to the octagon this year for the first time since November 2017, the UFC's No. 3 ranked Welterweight rides a two-fight win streak into MSG with knockouts over both Darren Till and Ben Askren.
The latter, being the fastest in combat sports history at five seconds with a vicious highlight-reel flying knee, handing Askren - the former Bellator and One Welterweight Champion - his first career loss. The mass media attention and career rejuvenation that followed is a mixed martial arts outlier that helped catapult Masvidal into UFC 244's main event.
"Masvidal's star has risen so quickly this year, it's unlike anything we have ever seen in this sport," said Bronsteter. "He's been around for so many years, and to have his star climb to this level so quickly out of nowhere shows he is picking the right fights, and taking fights no one wanted to take. Nobody wanted to fight Darren Till. Nobody wanted to fight Ben Askren. He's knocked them down spectacularly."
Diaz, 34, returned to the octagon in August after a three-year layoff defeating Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision at UFC 241. Citing 'everyone sucked, and there was no one to fight' in his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, Diaz then called out Masvidal and the fight was made a short time later.
A second-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Diaz is known for his wars with former two weight-class champion Conor McGregor, defeating the Irishman at UFC 196 in March 2016.
On paper, the matchup is as intriguing as it gets.
Masvidal has won 44% of fights by knockout compared to Diaz's 24%, while Diaz has won 57% of fights via submission compared to a diminutive 6% for Masvidal who conversely defends takedowns at 67%. Diaz lands significant strikes at a slightly higher volume clocking in at 4.64 per minute to Masvidal's 4.11.
"This is a great stylistic match up," said Bronsteter. "Nate Diaz has been away for some time, but came back and had a good showing versus Anthony Pettis."
"This is lightning in a bottle. The UFC fell ass-backward into this incredible main event based entirely on circumstance. There's no beef between these guys, but they are stars in their own right in this division at 170 lbs, and it just happens that it all comes together perfectly over the course of two months. It's a perfect scenario for everyone involved."
Prediction: Masvidal wins via Split Decision
Listen to the entire preview of UFC 244 here.