It’s been a strange year for both the UFC and Nate Diaz…..

The long-awaited return of the oft controversial Nate Diaz has finally arrived, as the love-or-hate-him character is facing Rafael Dos Anjos tonight (Saturday, December 13th, 2014) at UFC on FOX 13. The co-main event slot against the dangerous number three RDA is being talked abut as a mismatch in many circles, but are we sleeping on the younger Diaz brother here?

After a topsy turvy year for the UFC, involving injuries to their biggest stars and a projected profit loss, it almost seems fitting that Nate Diaz rounds off one of the year’s last UFC cards. Even with his missed weight. The extended hiatus that Diaz took since his TUF 18 finale win over Gray Maynard was due to contract and pay disputes, although nothing has even changed since then. So why the return to fighting?

Perhaps Nate Diaz sees the opportunity at UFC on FOX 13 that so many of us are doubting he can capitalize on? I myself have voiced how, on paper, Diaz looks outclassed. We all know fights don’t happen on paper, and that it only takes one mistake, one moment, one crucial strike to completely change the dynamic of a fight.

After all, we know that Diaz can box quite well, and doesn’t like to hunt too much for his opponent. Will Dos Anjos play right in to Diaz’s gameplan in the early rounds? All that aside, it appears to me that Diaz is in line to gain the most from a potential victory at UFC on FOX 13, especially when you consider his ranking heading in to the fight.

The Stockton bad boy currently resides in the number 14 spot in the official rankings, making his fight against the number three RDA a huge underdog bout. What’s to say that a win for Diaz wouldn’t put him right in line for a title shot with Anthony Pettis? After all, there has been bad blood between the two before.

There is also Diaz’s status as a bad boy to consider, his somewhat effortless public image as an anti-hero is starting to grow on some of us. Just look at the recent interview about CM Punk. His status growing as somewhat of a ‘cult anti-hero’ could make a win against the heavily favored Dos Anjos an absolute sensation. It would also send a huge message to the UFC brass who were reluctant to consider a pay rise for Diaz.

This is undoubtedly Diaz’s biggest fight since his 2012 title shot against Benson Henderson, but he may also have the most to lose against Dos Anjos, even with his underdog ranking. Indeed, a convincing loss against the Brazilian would likely mark the end of any title aspirations, pay or contract betterment and would land a certain amount of egg on the Californian’s face regarding his remarks in the last 12 months.

Can Nate Diaz pull off a huge win at UFC on FOX 13 and reap the benefits, or will Rafael Dos Anjos send him to lightweight irrelevance?