Almost three years ago, Gray Maynard put on a championship performance against Frankie Edgar at UFC 125 that could have easily put the strap around his waist. A single point from a single judge away from the UFC lightweight championship, Maynard barely missed being at the top of the division, fighting to a draw. Since that fight, Maynard has been stopped twice, turning “The Bully” into the victim. What will it take for the TUF 5 Alumni to get back to the top of the division? He has to start by stopping his TUF Season’s champion, Nate Diaz.
Nate Diaz was recently TKO’d by Josh Thompson, who was the next in line for a title shot against lightweight champion Anthony Pettis before Pettis suffered an injury. Nate Diaz also fought for the championship in 2012, losing to Ben Henderson convincingly by decision. Although stopping Diaz wouldn’t boost Maynard back to #1 contender status, it would show that a fight between the Thomson/Henderson winner would be of high interest, especially if Grant gets the next shot at Pettis’ title, leaving the winner of Thomson/Henderson without a fight.
So how can Maynard do what only one other person has ever done, finish Diaz by strikes? He must do what he did against Frankie Edgar, but make sure to finish the job. Diaz is a more elusive boxer than Edgar, but if Maynard can start hot and hit Diaz with some hard strikes to start, it could be a short night for the Diaz bro. If Maynard can’t get the finish in the first, it might be a long night for Maynard, who saw a tough time winning late rounds against Edgar.
Maynard has said recently that he wants to face Edgar in a rematch at featherweight, but beating Edgar isn’t the answer to Maynard’s title hopes. Beating Edgar at featherweight would do very little for Maynard in the lightweight division, as well considering that Maynard cutting down to featherweight sounds like too great of a feat for the heavyset lightweight. It might be a chance to avenge a hard stoppage loss, the first of Maynard’s career, but this chance at retribution should be kept in the back of Maynard’s mind to fuel his run to the title. Maynard was also stopped at UFC 160 by TJ Grant, a quick first round TKO that shocked fans and shook up the lightweight division.
Gray Maynard started his career UFC career with a no contest, after he knocked both Rob Emerson and himself out after a slam. After that fight, Maynard went a perfect 8-0, beating well-known lightweights like Jim Miller, Nate Diaz, Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian and Dennis Siver. Using his NCAA Division I Wrestling skills, Maynard cruised to decision wins in seven of the eight fights. His only non-decision win was the fourth fastest finish in UFC history, a nine second knockout of Joe Veres.
Which Maynard will we see on Saturday night? Will we see the Maynard that wrestles like no other, taking the unanimous decision, or will we see a furious bully, going for a quick knockout in the first round? If it took seven decision wins to get a title shot, then Maynard should be looking for that knockout if he wants a title shot sooner than later. We’ll see which path he chooses on November 30, when he faces Nate Diaz for a third time at The Ultimate Fighter Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre in Las Vegas.