Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight title challengers Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard squared off in a pivotal showdown in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale main event last night (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013) from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
No. 8-ranked Diaz had seen a surprising fall from grace over the past year, losing two straight one-sided fights to Ben Henderson and Josh Thomson. Diaz was in serious danger of being passed by in one of the most talented divisions in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Maynard also had much to prove after winning only two fights since Aug. 2010. His previous bout was a first round knockout loss to T.J. Grant back at UFC 160. Despite the tribulations Maynard held onto a lofty No. 5 ranking.
He still needed to defeat Diaz to maintain that reputation.
"Bully" failed miserably at that goal last night, losing so badly that some are even calling for Maynard to retire. Let's take a look back at Diaz' devastating win from Las Vegas.
Maynard came out aggressive, looking to control the center of the Octagon. He threw a looping hook that seemed to partially land, then transitioned into a successful single leg takedown. Maynard bullied Diaz near the fence and took his back standing.
Diaz was ready, however.
The Stockton native pulled off an impressive judo throw that surprised Maynard. "Bully" wasn't down for long but momentum had shifted. Diaz nailed his opponent on the chin with a short left that marked the beginning of the end for Maynard.
Diaz swarmed with his trademark boxing and shots began to land at will. Diaz unleashed a flurry that had Maynard out on his feet. The referee stepped in to call off the fight but the damage was done.
Maynard was sent stumbling face first into the canvas, signifying his surprising fall from grace.
In losing three of his last four fights by knockout, Maynard is in dangerous territory. It's a shocking position for the once highly regarded "Bully, who challenged for the UFC Lightweight title as recently as October 2011. But Frankie Edgar stopped him in that bout, a fight that seemingly began Maynard's steep decline.
The amount of punishment he's taken recently is beginning to add up quickly. With the loss Maynard is many miles away from being a top contender. His bid to come out victorious in his trilogy with Diaz fell short but he most likely didn't think his career would be in doubt following a loss.
Unfortunately the fact remains that it is. Maynard will almost definitely fall out of the Lightweight top 10 with his latest showing.
For Diaz the win couldn't have come at a better time. People were beginning to doubt him after he was thoroughly dominated by Henderson and Thomson. The outspoken Diaz responded to his critics by destroying a former title challenger in electrifying fashion. He deserves another big fight and he'll get one. Perhaps a rematch with Thomson will take place at some point down the road.
Diaz has a well-publicized beef with UFC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who was forced out of his UFC on Fox 9 bout with Thomson due to an injured knee. Diaz isn't ready to face "Showtime" quite yet but it's hard to deny that the fight would be quite an exciting prospect. Diaz will make a strong case for the bout with one more win over a top five opponent.
Nate Diaz got a big statement win by knocking out Gray Maynard in the first round. Was it a brilliant performance by Diaz or has Maynard simply lost all of his steam? Let us know your thoughts below!