Gray Maynard vs. Ross Pearson Lightweight
When we last left our heroes...
The theme of this card seems to be "here are two dudes spiritually similar, now let's put them in a paper bag and let them rip." Gray and Ross are both fighters who began with promise, but have experienced a decline since.
Gray has experienced the more dramatic decline. At one point he nearly had the Lightweight title in his hands against Frankie Edgar. Now he's coming off two first round TKO losses to T.J. Grant and Nate Diaz.
if he loses this bout, he'll likely retire. He's 35 years old after all. Hell, even a hard fought victory might not be enough. Either way Gray is in a tough spot, especially as a late bloomer.
As for Ross Pearson, we last saw him getting a Dana White refund for the judges decision handed to him after losing to Diego Sanchez, who did nothing but get hit, and land more punches on himself trying to bait Ross into a slugfest than landing punches on his opponent.
Pearson has always been a hot/cold fighter. It's weird because he seems a little better than his record indicates, but never produces the results to validate that notion. Maybe it's because he always seems to look better in defeat than he does in victory: the consequence of being a dynamic fighter without finishing skills perhaps?
What both men can violently do...
Ross has always done good work inside. He's a boxer with solid fundamentals, and an actual knack for staying patient against pressure. He likes to mix his striking with takedowns, but I think he's more effective when he's just simply striking. Fighters have a tendency to feel like they need to prove they're well rounded, so they end up interrupting an otherwise effective rhythm. "Hey it's great that you just got your black belt Mr. Tyson, but when your opponent is hurt, keep swinging at his head like a pinata instead of hoping he's just dazed enough to fall for your reverse anteverted double vaporizer"
I think Ross has this problem, although it's purely conjecture.
As for Gray, he's a massive LW who can double leg you like nobody's business. Like Ross in principle, he discovered he can punch pretty hard, and subsequently thought he was Erik Morales (still my favorite boxer of all time) as a result.
The funny thing is that his newfound love of boxing nearly got him a LW title. While Gray is pretty limited overall, his wrestling is top notch, and he handle himself well enough on the feet to threaten his opponents, though it should be said...
What both men can't violently do...
Defensively, he's always been a work in progress. Grant obliterated him, and even Edgar managed to finish him with punches. I don't think he has a bad chin. Remember how he flat out ate Clay Guida's right hand because he got sick of watching Clay run? Still, he's gettable because he doesn't box like a natural, keeps his guard low at times, and can only chamber a select number of punches.
I don't know what his strategy should be except to take Ross down, and keep him there.
As for Ross, I hate to blame Ross for the loss to Diego, but sometimes you just have to accept at some level that the proper authorities don't know how to do their job, so you have to pull double duty. He needed to be more active against Diego. He wasn't, so it cost him. He can't afford to make the same mistake against Gray because his best chance is on the feet, where he needs to land accurate enough punches to finish Gray.
I actually wouldn't be shocked to see Gray lose, but I don't think it's likely given Ross' own deficiencies. Robbery or not, I didn't think he looked all that good against Diego. He seemed content to fight not to lose: fighting not to lose is a financial death sentence in a sport where judges think fighting to win means doing your best Nolan Ryan impression.
Gray Maynard by Decision.