All lightweight UFC fighters will be on notice at UFC on FX 4 as Clay Guida takes on former number one contender Gray Maynard in the main event. The two lightweights have been on different trajectories within the UFC’s lightweight division, at times seemingly like they would collide. Now after five years and a combined twenty four fights later, the two are looking to establish themselves atop of the division.
Guida has stated for years now that he wants to wear the UFC gold. And twice he has come close to earning himself a title shot. The first was back in June of 2009 when he took on Diego Sanchez and lost a close decision. He then rebounded against Kenny Florian to try and catapult himself back up the ranks, but Florian was the better fighter that night.
Guida was then sent to the near back of the line in the stacked lightweight division and knew he needed strong performances to get his name back in the discussion of the elite lightweights. The first step was submitting Shannon Gugerty at UFC Live 1 on the preliminary card. The arm-triangle choke earned him an extra bonus and set the ball in motion.
He then took on Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 117 who by many accounts was winning the fight after two rounds. But in the third round Guida swarmed dos Anjos, scored a takedown and started to land punches. Dos Anjos quickly tapped due to a jaw injury and Guida was riding a two-fight win streak.
His next test was against Takanori Gomi, a fight that many had been wanting to see for years. Guida went to work on Gomi and by the end of the second round was able to secure a guillotine choke. Guida’s name was now being considered again at the top of the division, the only problem was that same night Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard had fought to a draw, forcing the then number one challenger Anthony Pettis to either take a fight, or wait.
Pettis opted to fight, and Guida changed things up in the fight. He went back to his wrestling roots and played a very position dominant game against Pettis who by all accounts was expecting the Guida from the Sanchez fight. Unfortunately for Pettis, Guida won the bout and many thought he earned the right to challenge for the belt.
But injuries forced a delay in the title fight, so Guida opted for the next toughest fight: Ben Henderson. The two fighters are nearly identical; fantastic cardio, dominant wrestling, and hair that goes wild. There was a lot on the line for both Guida and Henderson: a title shot was going to be awarded to the winner. Unfortunately Guida’s four-fight win streak was snapped and now Guida looks to spring himself back up the ranks.
In his way, is former number one contender Gray Maynard. Maynard, unlike Guida, had his chance at UFC gold; twice. Maynard had earned the right to challenge for the belt after putting together a eight-fight win streak. The run included victories over Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta, Nate Diaz and Kenny Florian.
Maynard was thrilled with the chance to challenge for the title at UFC 125, especially considering the man holding the belt was someone he had already beat: Edgar. The two slugged it out for twenty five minutes, with Maynard dropping Edgar badly in the first round of the fight.
But Edgar’s heart proved to be more than anyone had expected. It was very Rocky like in that he came back stronger in the second round. Edgar was able to win three of the five rounds, but because Maynard had dominated the first so much, the fight was ruled a draw.
The two were all set to rematch in May of 2011, but injuries to both fighters delayed it until October. Again Maynard’s heavy hands found their mark on Edgar and Edgar was in trouble early on. Unfortunately Maynard couldn’t finish the champ, and in the fourth round it was Edgar who landed the fight-ending punch; knocking Maynard out cold.
On paper Maynard seems to have more tools to win the fight. His striking defense, takedown accuracy and defense are all greater than Guida’s. Guida holds an edge in striking accuracy and undoubtedly the cardio department. Additionally Guida against the title challengers has gone just 1-3 (losses to Sanchez, Florian, Henderson with a win over Pettis).
And while normally I would be going with the favorite (Maynard) as the right pick, even though my heart wants Guida to win, my head is telling me to listen to my heart.
There’s two reasons for this. The first is that Maynard left Xtreme Couture and set up shop elsewhere after the loss to Edgar. It was decided before the fight that he was going to be doing that anyways, and fighters who switch camps tend to not do as well in the first fight under the new coaching system.
Additionally, someone in Maynard’s camp (or maybe even Maynard) inquired about something being done to Guida’s hair for the fight. The issue was raised to the New Jersey State Athletic Commission, and rather than put up a fight, Guida immediately complied. As Guida said, it meant that someone wasn’t focused on the fight, but rather his hair.
One distraction is possible for a fighter to overcome, but two, no matter how small they are, is difficult. For that reason, the prediction is Guida wins and will submit Maynard in the championship rounds.