Gray Maynard's striking coach Gil Martinez had a game plan going into Saturday night's lightweight title fight against Frankie Edgar...cut down the cage and force the champion to deal with Maynard's power.
Martinez and company were well aware Edgar was going to utilize his movement and speed in an effort to offset Maynard's power and wrestling ability but to every one's surprise, Gray picked up on Edgar's movement pattern right away. Half-way through the first round Maynard caught the champion with a big punch that dropped Edgar to the canvas. The New Jersey native attempted to get back to his feet before getting caught with a second shot that once again put him on the canvas.
With the capacity crowd on their feet Maynard swarmed in looking for the finish and it was all Frankie Edgar could do to survive as Maynard continued to pummel the champion. As it would turn out not only did Edgar survive, but battled back to give Maynard all he could handle.When the judge's scorecards were read the main event at UFC 125 resulted in a draw. . Edgar would exit the octagon with his title in tact but neither fighter would have the closure in which they sought. They will get an immediate rematch.
I sat down with Gilbert Martinez to discuss the latest turn of events. In this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Martinez shared his insight on Saturday night's bout.
"The way the first round went down it became a sprint," Martinez began. "I knew when the round ended Gray was going to be tired because he punched himself out a little bit. In the second round he was catching his breath, getting his legs underneath him and if there is anything I would've had him do differently in that second round would have been to not engage as much as he did so that he could regroup."
Martinez continued, "I think it should have been stopped. The kid was hurt. He wasn't doing anything, wasn't protecting himself and was trying to run away. Like I said, he went down from hard, hard shots and if you look at the other fights before it would only take six or seven shots before the referee jumped in. Now I don't know the exact number but I would say Gray hit Frankie with at least 60 shots in that first round. He was spinning around and hitting the canvas. The kid was hurt and I think the fight should have definitely been stopped but it wasn't and now we get to do it again. There are so many lessons Gray will take out of this fight and that will only make him that much more confident the next time around. We talked a lot during our training camp about fighting in the fourth and fifth rounds and now that Gray has been through it, he will only be that much more prepared. On Saturday night he had to figure out how much to hold back or press forward and now that he's been through it, his body will know what to do. If the next fight goes into the fourth or fifth round Gray will know how much energy he can exert and when to turn it up a notch. He will only be that much more confident."
Maynard's performance in the first round put the elusive Edgar in survival mode. Watching Edgar spin out and hit the canvas evoked visions of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar trying to get away from Cain Velasquez. It was a similar position for Lesnar as he had survived his bout with Shane Carwin because the massive Carwin punched himself out in an attempt to put Lesnar away. But unlike Carwin, Maynard was able to regroup and battled through the next four rounds.
"It's funny that you mention the Cain Velasquez fight because that was something we discussed in our preparation," Martinez replied in regards to the comparison made between the two fights. "I showed Gray that fight and how Cain picked his shots to finish Lesnar. We went over it because I knew there would come a time during the fight with Edgar where Gray would have him in trouble with the chance to put him away. I wanted Gray to focus on the right shots and not waste punches. Unfortunately it all happened much quicker than we had planned. We expected Frankie to be running around for the first few rounds and after Gray nailed him it all went crazy. It happened so fast and Gray switched into kill mode where he wanted to end this guy. I definitely think Gray could have picked his punches better and if he had, he would have put Frankie completely out. It's okay though because now Gray knows he can handle a five round war and when we do this again Gray is going to finish him."
When the decision of a draw was rendered mixed emotions filled the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Fans in attendance were on their feet as they were treated to a five round exchange that saw both Maynard and Edgar push it to the limit. In a fight as action packed as Saturday night's main event proved to be opinions on the outcome will be disputed and debated in the weeks to come.
"I don't think Frankie felt he won the fight," Martinez stated. "The expression on a fighter's face tells it all. When they gave the final decision and it was a draw if you look at Gray's face he is disgusted. When you look at Frankie's face there was a look of relief and surprise. There was no way Frankie won that fight and as I said the expression tells the entire story."
Martinez continued, "The fact that Frankie was able to hit Gray with everything he had and wasn't able to hurt him is going to be a huge factor going into the next fight. Frankie didn't get punished in the first fight the way Frankie got punished on Saturday night. People may not know this but the first time they fought Gray broke his hand so he fought the entire three rounds with a broken hand. Plus if you remember he got poked in the eye in the first round so he fought with one hand and limited vision out of his eye. Now, going forward it is going to be extremely difficult for Frankie to not think about the type of power Gray possesses. Frankie knows now that Gray can hurt him at anytime and that he can hit Gray with everything he has and won't be able to hurt Gray. That is going to be demoralizing for Frankie and I believe it is going to be a huge factor that weighs on his mind. That will be to our advantage and it's only going to be a matter of time before we get that lightweight championship belt."
In the full entry Martinez talks about the Maynard camp's reaction to initial reports that Anthony Pettis and not Gray would get the next crack at the Lightweight title.
After the fight ended the announcement was made that Edgar would face Anthony Pettis who was waiting in the wings to face the winner of Saturday night's bout at UFC 125. The Maynard camp was extremely disappointed to hear the news but then a phone call from UFC President Dana White changed everything as he confirmed Edgar vs. Maynard 3 would be priority. Amidst the confusion Martinez informed me of the change of plans.
"As far as I know there is no set date yet and the only thing Dana said is that it is going to be put together as soon as possible. We cannot wait. We would love to fight him tomorrow. Gray would be ready to go. Obviously we have to wait for there to be an opening in the schedule to make the fight happen but we want it as soon as possible. This fight on Saturday night was probably the fight of the year and it would be unfair to Gray as well as the UFC fans if they were made to wait longer than the normal time frame it takes to put something together."
In the weeks leading up to the rematch between Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar there was a lot of talk that this would be one of the year's most boring matchups. As it would turn out, both Maynard and Edgar proved the naysayers wrong as they delivered an exciting five round battle. While there will always be critics, Martinez believes that Maynard's showing at UFC 125 will silence some of the talk that there is nothing exciting about Gray Maynard.
"There were a lot of people out there saying that Gray is a boring fighter," Martinez declared. " People saying Gray only goes out there to pull people down and other nonsense is ridiculous. Those people are going to have to eat their words now because that was not only "Fight of the Night" but it will be considered for "Fight of the Year". I've been watching the UFC for a long time and I don't know if I've ever seen someone dominate a round as much as what Gray did to Frankie in the first round. To be honest I've seen fights stopped for much less than what happened to Frankie on Saturday night. I mean...not only was he hurt but the referee allowed him to grab the fence to pull himself up and then allowed him to do it again to prevent being taken down. Those two things could have changed the outcome of this fight. No doubt in my mind. When Edgar went down, he went down three times from hard punches and he was hurt each time. Frankie went to the hospital last night after the fight. Sometimes the referees don't realize what taking a beating like that can do to a fighter. I can guarantee you it has taken something out of Frankie. For the rematch there is no way for Frankie to not think about what kind of power Gray has. We knew their game plan was to come in out punch and out score us but now that they see Gray is just as fast and has more power than Frankie. I only see things getting easier for Gray in the third fight."
With Saturday night's fight in the books and a third fight waiting to be put together I asked Martinez what grade he would give his star pupil's performance.
"I would give him a B+," Martinez answered. "The only reason I wouldn't give him an A is because I would have liked to see him pick his punches better in that first round. I cannot fault him for trying to put Frankie away when he had him hurt but there is so much Gray will take away from this fight. This is going to make Gray a completely different fighter. He knows he can go through a five round war and he is walking away with more confidence because of it. The next time is going to be a different story and we can't wait."