Posted by Gareth Cavanagh @garethcavanagh
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Gareth Cavanagh

Nick Diaz is one of the most popular and recognizable UFC welterweights of all time. He has had an eventful career, to say the least, facing legends like Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, as well as fighters that went on to be huge stars in the sport like Robbie Lawler.

It has been some time since Diaz stepped into the cage, though, as a NAC suspension for marijuana forced him into a long layoff. Diaz is finally primed for a comeback, but who will he face when he steps back into the Octagon?

6. Johny Hendricks

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

This would be a clash between two veterans of MMA. Both fighters have been pillars of the sport during its fledgling years; they have especially been pivotal figures in the welterweight division.

If the UFC wants to get some momentum behind Diaz ahead of a second run, they could match him with Hendricks. This could be how you welcome Nick back into the UFC in a way that shows he is still a dominant 170-pounder.

5. Georges St-Pierre

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There could be a fascinating narrative to a rematch with Georges St-Pierre. For starters, both fighters want to return to the UFC after a long lay-off. The promotional material would sell this fight as the homecoming of two legendary welterweights.

Furthermore, there was no love lost in their first encounter at #UFC158. Diaz has even made claims that he was drugged to affect his performance in their first meeting.

4. Robbie Lawler

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

You might be unaware, but Nick Diaz and #RobbieLawler have met once before. The bout ended with Nick Diaz knocking Lawler out cold. Since then, Robbie Lawler has elevated himself to a completely different level. Robbie was a dominant champion, so there is always so much to analyze in his performances. He is also durable as hell, and his fiveround war with Rory MacDonald was one of the best welterweight championship fights of all time.

Diaz's career has gone through a metamorphosis since then, too. He became an icon, taking part in dramatic matches with Carlos Condit, GSP, Anderson Silva and B.J. Penn. Lawler's destructive Tyson-esque style would match well with Nick's own boxing pedigree. Couple that with the fact that both fighters create exciting brawls, and this could be a treat for the fans.

3. Chris Weidman

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Diaz fought at middleweight before when he took on Anderson Silva at UFC 183. If Nick was to return to the higher weight class, a bout with Weidman could be the thing to entice him.

Diaz and Weidman have contrasting images and personalities: Weidman's clean-cut hero vs. Nick Diaz, the bad boy of MMA. The image of these two standing opposite one another just works.

2. Donald Cerrone

David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports
David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

"Cowboy" has been on a tear at welterweight. Cerrone has previously been a lightweight fighter, but he has to cut a significant amount of weight to get down to 155 pounds. Welterweight is clearly a much healthier size for him, which allows him to compete to the best of his ability.

Cerrone has been so entertaining and game to fight, that he deserves a big bout. He is at a point in his career where the logical move is to book him in fun fights with big stars. We already know he is a killer, so there is no need to pit him against people based on the rankings.

You can actually hear the cash register and see dollar signs when you think about this fight. It would be so lucrative. Diaz would have a challenge upon his return to prove that he can still hang with the best, and Cerrone would be getting a richly deserved big opponent.

Furthermore, Cerrone has been friendly and cordial with his opponents up to this point. Diaz would be someone he could build up a rivalry with.

1. Michael Bisping

Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports
Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping recently dropped Diaz's name as someone he would like to fight at UFC 206 in Toronto, after Georges St-Pierre was removed as a possible opponent.

Bisping has since said that the idea of fighting Diaz on the December card intrigues him, and this would be a throwdown between two unpredictable alpha males with a bevy of trash talk.

It would mean that "The Count" could face yet another legend of mixed martial arts. He has previously beaten Anderson Silva via unanimous decision, and finally avenged himself against Dan Henderson in defense of the title.

For Nick Diaz, this would be the second weight class that he could fight for the belt in, after facing GSP for the welterweight strap at UFC 158.

If Bisping wants to put the gold on the line, this would elevate the card, rounding off an amazing year for the UFC. Diaz failed to capture the welterweight championship in 2013, but could he take the middleweight strap?

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