Two of the best and most unheralded lightweights on the planet duked it out last night (June 22, 2012) as former two-time title challenger Gray Maynard battled perennial top 155-er Clay Guida in the main event of UFC on FX 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Guida, showcasing a new hairstyle after Maynard's camp had taken issue with his mangy "do," looked extremely quick and surprised just about everyone by choosing to stand and trade with the more powerful and dangerous Maynard.
"The Carpenter" got his licks in, especially with the element of surprise early and primarily worked his speed advantage, but Maynard began to pick up steam as the fight wore on, refusing to give in to the Greg Jackson-trained fighter's pace.
It was a hotly contested bout, but what primarily helped Maynard squeak out a split decision victory? And what happens next for both top lightweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida post-fight review and analysis:
Early on, it was the Clay Guida show. He darted in and out repeatedly connecting with a short strike before Maynard could respond, even bloodying up "The Bully's" nose in the opening minute. Guida repeatedly frustrated Maynard with his stick and move strategy and the former title challenger could not find his range.
Guida began to really work his speed in the second round, dancing around on the outside while Maynard continuously stalked him from the cage center. Maynard could not find the range on his power shots, but his jabs started to connect a bit. Regardless, he still couldn't land anything that effective and Guida once again stole a round.
By round three, Maynard had finally begun to find his range, landing a nice straight cross early in the frame. Guida continued to utilize his incredible conditioning and pace to dance around on the outside and frustrate Maynard, but his offensive output began to slow down as he seemed more focused on avoiding what Maynard was throwing at him as he was actually doing damage.
Maynard finally caught on in the fourth, clinching with Guida and blasting him with a few good knees. When both men were at distance, however, "The Carpenter" continued to be extremely elusive. Maynard again threw some nice knees in the clinch, potentially grabbing Guida's hair to keep him in place (at least that's what Guida's gripe was during the bout). Guida shot in for a takedown in response, but almost got choked out via guillotine although he was able to hang on until the end of the round.
In the decisive fifth, Guida continued his elusive strategy, even getting warned by referee Dan Miragliotta for his passivity. Maynard continued to press forward, throwing big knees and punches to the head and body and Guida had little in terms of offense to return with. Maynard was visibly frustrated with the whole situation, but there wasn't much he could do about it other than be aggressive and hope the judges sided with him.
Thankfully for Maynard, they did in the form of a 48-47, 47-48, 48-47 split decision victory.
For Clay Guida, he came out with a great strategy early, but his inability to adapt allowed Maynard to catch up and surpass him as the fight wore on. He caught Maynard napping with some relatively sharp striking early and some terrific quickness, but his offensive output slowed drastically in the final few rounds despite showing no signs of fatigue. Perhaps he was too focused on his defense, but for whatever reason, Guida was unable to get his licks in in the latter half of the fight. By all accounts, Guida performed better than most were expecting but I think the biggest surprise of the fight was that Maynard was the fighter who got stronger as the fight progressed.
I'd expect to see Guida face someone along the lines of the Joe Lauzon-Terry Etim loser, Edson Barboza or perhaps a bout against Jim Miller would make sense.
For Gray Maynard, appearances are everything. While he couldn't land a large portion of his power strikes, he was the fighter who was stalking, moving forward and being aggressive. Guida's shimmying on the outside might have allowed him to dart in and land some strikes, but it looked a lot more like he was trying to avoid everything Maynard threw instead of actually attacking. Also, by standing in the cage center, Maynard was able to keep his conditioning throughout the bout despite Guida probably moving two or three times as much as him simply because Guida was doing it all on the outside. Once Maynard made the necessary adjustments with finding his range, utilizing the clinch and even countering a takedown attempt with a guillotine choke, he had all the momentum in the fight.
Lastly, I'm surprised that Guida wasn't a little bit more active with takedown attempts. By standing the entire time, he only tested one part of Maynard's game and it was much easier for Maynard to keep up with him.
I'd expect Maynard to face someone like Anthony Pettis next, perhaps in a title eliminator especially if Benson Henderson is able to successfully defend his title against Frankie Edgar. Other candidates include Donald Cerrone or perhaps, if he's willing to wait a few extra months, former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez once he's finally able to sign with the UFC.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you think Guida was able to juke and jive his way to a victory, or did the right man win? Was this the type of fight you expected between both men?
For complete UFC on FX 4 results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.