The UFC lightweight number one contender position is on the line Saturday night (May 25, 2013) as former title challenger Gray Maynard takes on T.J. Grant on the UFC 160 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Record: 11-1-1 (1 No Contest) overall, 9-1-1 (1 No Contest) in the UFC
Key Losses: Frankie Edgar (UFC 136)
How he got here: Gray Maynard was a successful wrestler at Michigan State, and chanced upon mixed martial arts when he was asked to be a sparring partner for B.J. Penn. He sought out Randy Couture in Las Vegas and the rest is history. Maynard joined the cast of the fifth season of the Ultimate Fighter after just two pro fights and his inexperience caught up with him when he was submitted by Nate Diaz to eliminate him from the competition.
He made his debut in the UFC on the show's finale, knocking himself and Rob Emerson out with a slam to earn a No Contest. He took his frustration out on Joe Veras in his next fight, destroying him in just 9 seconds with a TKO.
After the Veras fight, "The Bully" won seven straight decisions in the UFC, scoring notable victories over Dennis Siver, Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller, Nate Diaz and lastly Kenny Florian to become the number one contender for the title. In his rematch with Edgar, he had him on the ropes but couldn't put him away and ended up with a split draw.
He battled Edgar again in the trilogy fight and after dominating early, he was clipped and finished decisively in the fourth. "The Bully" began his comeback trail with a close decision victory over Clay Guida last summer and after recovering from some nagging injuries, he's back and hoping to once again earn a shot at the belt.
How he gets it done: Maynard is all about power. He's got a good first step and while he doesn't have the knockout finishes to back it up, he does possess some heavy hands, capable of hurting his opponent should he connect solidly with anything thrown hard.
"The Bully" should try to avoid clinching, instead focusing on either working his striking near the cage center or potentially shooting in for an explosive double leg takedown. The quicker he can get the fight to the ground and utilize his top control and ground and pound, the better. He doesn't want a stalemate during a takedown attempt where he's eating elbows from all sorts of weird angles like Gabriel Gonzaga against Travis Browne.
Remaining composed will be important for Maynard. He's been in this position before unlike Grant and he's going to have to keep his cool and not blow all his energy looking for a frenetic finish if the opportunity isn't there. As long as he can stay patient for the right opening he needs, he can definitely land that big shot or score the big takedown.
Record: 20-5 overall, 7-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Grant made a name for himself as a downright nasty submission fighter, destroying nearly everyone he faced on the local Canadian circuit. In just two and a half years, he accumulated a 13-2 record and had submitted 12 of his opponents in victory.
The finishes didn't come quite as easily for him once he arrived in the UFC, fighting slightly undersized as a welterweight and going 3-3 in the promotion, losing to top 170-pounders like Johny Hendricks and Dong Hyun Kim.
A drop to lightweight was exactly what the doctor ordered and Grant has been ferocious. He outgrappled Shane Roller in his 155 pound debut, did the same against Carlo Prater and then outstruck Evan Dunham in a "Fight of the Night"-winning performance.
He continued to showcase the evolution of his striking in his last bout, a single round destruction of veteran Matt Wiman, finishing the bout after landing a brutal standing elbow. The four fight win streak in the division earned him a number one contender fight against Maynard this weekend.
How he gets it done: While Grant used to be all about the submission, it's his striking and especially his Muay Thai that have been standing out lately. The Nova Scotia native has showcased some serious pop in his punches and joints. His key will be to get inside of Maynard, fight ugly and really try to punish "The Bully" while taking away some of the former title challenger's power.
Maynard won't be able to land those big looping uppercuts or hooks if the fight is up close and personal while Grant will be in his comfort zone, throwing elbows, knees and dirty boxing attacks.
Grant has a solid ground game to mix in should Maynard try to utilize his wrestling. Don't forget how easily Grant stifled Shane Roller's wrestling attack and actually outgrappled the Oklahoma State standout. While Maynard's wrestling is given more credence, Grant could definitely have what it takes to potentially stifle him in that department.
Who will come out on top at UFC 160? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!