Gray Maynard is 34 years old.
His performance at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale was alarming. Not because he was defeated -- losing is part of the game -- but rather because he was unable to withstand punches from a fighter who coming into their Nov. 30, 2013, headliner in Las Vegas, Nevada, had only notched three of 16 wins by way of knockout or technical knockout.
Nate Diaz is a volume puncher.
That's not to discount his performance, as the Stockton slugger went into his FOX Sports 1 main event and did exactly what he was supposed to do. That's win (recap). When all was said and done, Maynard was out on his feet, stumbling around the Octagon like a drunken sailor on his first night at port.
As a result, "The Bully" has now been knocked out in three of his last four fights.
What's troubling about that statistic is that it follows his five-round split draw against Frankie Edgar at UFC 125 back in 2011, which then led to yet another grueling war of attrition in his "Answer" rematch at UFC 136. I'm not your usual "sky is falling" type of alarmist, but it looks like Maynard may have emerged a different fighter following the conclusion of that taxing trilogy.
Not for the better.
Head trauma in mixed martial arts (MMA) is a tricky topic. The biggest argument we have in favor of fighter safety is "Welp, nobody has died yet!" Be that as it may (at least in UFC), pugilistic dementia is not the kind of thing that you can spot in the bathroom mirror, like that rash you picked up at the gym.
Nor can you pop a few pills and wait for it to go away (just ask T.J. Grant).
This is combat sports and guys are going to get hurt. They're also going to get knocked out. There are no measures we can take to prevent either of those two scenarios from taking place. But when they occur with such frequency in such a short window of time, we have a responsibility to recognize them as more than just a run of bad luck.
Something is wrong with Gray Maynard.
He's not alone, either. Whispers of brain damage have permeated discussions about the future of welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who should retire, according to UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, as well as "GSP's" cornerman, Kristof Midoux.
Because a fighter is just that, someone who fights. Not only inside the Octagon, but outside it, as well. If "The Bully" thinks he is "fine," then it's going to be very difficult to convince him otherwise. Especially as a competitor, as no athlete worth his salt is going to be okay with leaving on a losing streak.
Or a knockout.
But that is exactly the reason why Maynard should leave. If not, then he should at least be sidelined for an extended period of time. MMA is how the former collegiate wrestler makes money, I get that, but it would be nice if he was around long enough to spend it.
On something other than medical bills.
I hope whatever athletic commission is charged with licensing him for his next fight takes a long, hard look at its reasoning for doing so. Or at the very least, replays last night's tape of Maynard getting punched repeatedly inside the cage, despite the fact that he was already unconscious.
UFC President Dana White claims MMA is safe. Now it's time to prove it.
For more on TUF 18 Finale including results, reactions, highlights and more, check out our live story stream by clicking here.