For the first time since 2010, Gray Maynard will face someone not named Frankie Edgar as he is set to headline tonight's (June 22, 2012) UFC on FX 4 event from Atlantic City, N.J., opposite Clay Guida.
Tied up with "The Answer" in his last two fights, Maynard was seemingly one big punch away from dethroning the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion at both UFC 125 on Jan., 1 2011, and at UFC 136 last October. "The Answer's" resolve, however, proved to be greater than "The Bully's" determination as Edgar overcame first round scares in both fights to retain his title, though the New Years Day bout was scored a draw.
Since getting knocked out for the first time in his career in Houston, Maynard has decided to change things up for his comeback trail.
He parted ways with long-time camp Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas and has ventured from camp to camp, stretching from American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in California all the way to Brazil where he spent some time training alongside UFC Featherweight champion Jose Aldo and his Nova Uniao camp.
Currently, Ben Henderson reigns supreme atop the 155-pound division and is looking to defend his title against the aforementioned Edgar to see who indeed deserves the right to sit at the head of the table. Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone aren't too far behind, as well.
With the 155-pound division currently loaded at the top, Maynard knows his climb back up the totem pole won't be easy, but with new found motivation, he is determined to do anything it takes to get his shot at UFC gold one more time.
And it all begins with "The Carpenter" in New Jersey:
"My girl is pregnant and that changes your outlook in life. I don't just want that belt for myself now, but to secure the future for my kid who's about to come into the world. Being a world champion and having big fights secures my kid's future. I've knocked the UFC world champion down five times and probably been as close to the title as you can get without actually holding it. I want to go one punch, one second, better next time. It was very frustrating not being able to get the win despite beating Edgar up, and it took a long time getting over it. But I'm back and I know I'm able to beat anyone in the division. There's a big traffic jam at the top of the lightweight division, you've got Clay up there, Nate Diaz has been looked great, and there's Anthony Pettis plus Frankie is rematching with Ben Henderson in September. There's a big traffic jam in the division now - and now it isn't me causing it I think it sucks!"
Maynard looks to let out his frustrations on the Energizer Bunny that is Guida this Friday, but even though the win is the most important thing, Gray feels that simply won't be enough as he is looking to make a statement by finishing his scrappy foe:
"Winning on Friday night against Guida isn't good enough. I know I've got to knock him out, make a statement, to make my case for a title shot. I know it's not likely I get another fight with Frankie so soon, but if Ben keeps the belt I think I make sense as No1 contender. I've already beat Diaz, but he's earned his spot at the top of the division, and I'd be happy to fight him for No1 spot anytime."
A knockout over Guida is easier said than done as "The Carpenter" has yet to be be knocked out in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. On the flip side, Guida is also aiming for the KO as he tries to avoid dropping two straight.
With both looking to stray from their usual wrestling ways, fans are in for a treat if they do indeed decide to go head hunting as they possibly look to pick up a nice "Knockout of the Night" bonus, in the process.
Who has the better chance and achieving that goal?