Gray Maynard (10-1-1) has been a little heavy on decisions, which account for 8 of his 10 wins, but still thoroughly dominant. His only shortcomings are the draw and subsequent TKO loss to then-champ Frankie Edgar, both of which started off with Maynard paddle-balling Edgar's head in near-finish scenarios, and the submission defeat to Nate Diaz on TUF that doesn't appear on his official record. Maynard also has a No Contest resulting from a freakish double TKO while taking Robert Emerson to the mat.
With the exception of split decision wins over Roger Huerta and Diaz in the rematch, Maynard has bulldozed the rest of the competition, including Edgar in their initial meeting. His wrestling has been utterly overbearing and the select few who could repel his takedowns struggled to mount offense under a hail of his whirring jackhammers on the feet.
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I was a little indifferent toward Clay Guida (29-12) when he first started making waves in the UFC, but the guy's simply won me over. It's impossible not to like and appreciate -- or at least respect -- his infectious fighting spirit and unflinching determination. He might not ever be champion nor produce highlight-reel finishes, but you can bet the farm that he's going to fight his ass off and leave everything in the cage.
"The Carpenter" is a good wrestler who's adept with basic submissions, like attacking the neck from the front headlock or snaking in chokes from a dominant grappling position. He's also increased his striking effectiveness with his unique creation of drunk-guy-dancing-at-the-bar head movement, improved boxing fundamentals and learning how to set up his wrestling with his striking (and vice-versa).
In spite of his many subtle evolutions, Guida's unparalleled pace and feistiness are his best attributes. He'll be tasked with implementing those tools to chip away at the nearly immovable force of Maynard's D1 wrestling foundation.
Continued in the full entry.
Maynard doesn't offer much in the realm of weaknesses to exploit: he was choked out by Diaz, one of the deadliest submission artists at 155-pounds, and Edgar's footwork and ability to pop in and out of range with crisp combinations are virtually inimitable.
What Guida can replicate is Edgar's heart, durability, determination, elevated pace and dizzying pressure. Make no mistake about it -- Guida has the heart of a champion, and that's not only rare, but it was the biggest factor in Edgar persevering through Maynard's early onslaught. Guida does not have the striking finesse or elaborate footwork of Edgar, yet the intelligent way he's been meshing his boxing and wrestling and the uncertainty caused by his vivacious head movement could cause problems for Maynard.
On the feet, Guida has the faster hands but isn't known as a power puncher -- he's a capable boxer but not the type that wobbles or drops his opponents. In a straight wrestling match, he can't compete with Maynard, who's one of the most physically imposing lightweights in the UFC. His takedown defense is adequate but more dependent on his defensive movement and sprawling than his physical strength or clinch technique.
This, again, leaves no clear-cut path to victory for Guida, whereas Maynard knows he can inflict his short, mean power punches and fall back on his domineering wrestling if necessary. I believe that drawing from his hallmark characteristics and cycling through each at his typically blinding pace is Guida's best route. This is also the blueprint for Huerta's success against Maynard, who was faced with the same disadvantages in wrestling, size/strength and punching power, but fought competitively by conjoining his wrestling, striking and willpower at a furious pace in order to initiate scrambles, cause a bunch of general chaos and keep Maynard guessing and back on his heels as often as possible.
Since it's highly unlikely that Guida can stop Maynard with strikes, submit him or out-wrestle him, he'll have to phase-shift between takedowns, faking takedowns, rushing into the clinch and unreeling explosive combinations with his hands. I don't think Guida can defeat Maynard with any one of those tools alone, but mixing up each of those proficiencies, staying unpredictable with his selection and assaulting Maynard with them at light speed is the ideal (only?) sensible strategy.
Guida must be wary of Maynard's crushing left hook from outside and extremely conscious of his head position when closing range or dropping levels, as Maynard's right uppercut is also a devastating weapon. He'll also be encumbered with maintaining his balance and composure when attacking with punches, as Maynard can launch for a devouring double leg at any given moment, which always wreaks havoc on an advancing striker.
Having only fallen to the 155-pound world champion and giving him hell in the process, it's too hard not to side with Maynard's blue-collar boxing and wrestling here. "The Bully" just has a more obvious and attainable gameplan to follow and this should be his fight to win. Though logic hints toward a decision, I wouldn't be surprised to see Maynard seek out a finish via strikes, and 5 rounds offers plenty of time to do so.
My Prediction: Gray Maynard by decision.