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Nate Diaz puts away Donald Cerrone and their bad blood at UFC 141

Cerrone: “I tried boxing with him and I got out-boxed. He got in my head.”

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Sam Morris

Nate Diaz, left, and Donald Cerrone congratulate each other after their lightweight fight at UFC 141 Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Diaz won the three round unanimous decision.

UFC 141 Diaz vs. Cerrone

Nate Diaz hits Donald Cerrone with a left during their lightweight fight at UFC 141 Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Diaz won the three round unanimous decision. Launch slideshow »

UFC 141

Jon Fitch hits the mat after being knocked out by Johny Hendriks during the first round of their fight at UFC 141 Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Launch slideshow »

The feud between Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 followed the same trajectory as the vast majority of grudge matches in mixed martial arts.

Lingering dislike turns into full-fledged hatred a few days before the fight when two opponents are forced to answer questions about each other and hang around at the same media functions. By the time the bout ends, the whole ordeal is behind both competitors.

Diaz and Cerrone had nothing more to argue about after their co-main event Friday at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Diaz scored a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over Cerrone in a contest that won the Fight of the Night honors and reserved its place in UFC lore for the way both fighters threw everything they had at each other.

“We stood there and went toe-to-toe,” Cerrone said. “There’s some respect in that.”

Cerrone couldn’t envision a scenario where he’d shake Diaz’s hand earlier in the week. But by the end of their slugfest, the two were locked in an embrace congratulating each other.

Diaz apologized for flipping Cerrone’s cowboy hat off of his head and shoving him in a Wednesday incident. Cerrone told Diaz much of the trash talk was nothing more than a way to hype their meeting.

“Everyone was trying to get us worked up saying this and that,” Diaz said. “I try not to say anything. No matter how much better I am than somebody or worse, fight day you can come out there and get slapped, knocked down or whatever. I’m not a fortuneteller. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Although he was remorseful, the pre-fight banter clearly worked in Diaz’s advantage. “Cowboy” admitted that the Stockton, Calif., native got in his head.

The verbal exchanges during the week worked as much in Diaz’s favor as the boxing exchanges did Friday. Cerrone is a technical kickboxer, who conceivably would have found an advantage in keeping his distance and out-pointing Diaz.

Instead, Cerrone sprinted at his opponent from the opening bell and embroiled himself in a brawl more suited to Diaz’s style.

“There are no excuses,” Cerrone said. “He beat me. He took me out of my game and put me into his.”

Diaz busted Cerrone up with a persistent jab that he particularly threw with precision in the first and third rounds. Cerrone found enough success with his leg kicks in the second round that one judge scored it in his favor.

Cerrone also brought the crowd to their feet every once in a while with big counter punches. But overall, he couldn’t match Diaz’s volume striking.

“There are so many fights where you look at the guys, you look at their styles and the guys talk smack on each other, then they go out and it’s not the fight you thought it would be,” UFC President Dana White said. “That was exactly the fight I thought it was going to be. It’s a situation where there’s going to be a winner and a loser, but you end up respecting both of them.”

And the fighters end up respecting each other. That part might sound surprising after all that went down before the bout, but not to someone who follows MMA closely.

It’s a pattern that plays out frequently.

“I talked a lot of (expletive) and the bigger, badder dog showed up tonight,” Cerrone said. “I congratulate Nick. It was a good fight. I’ll do it again. That’s the one promise I’ve made. I’m going to fight to the end every time.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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