Only a Matter of Time for Gray Maynard
With a second consecutive victory over one of the greatest lightweights of all time, Toms River, New Jersey’s Frankie Edgar can now sit atop the 155-lbs division as king. Despite entering both fights as a massive underdog, Edgar now holds back to back victories over B.J Penn – a feat that no other lightweight has ever been able to accomplish before.
Edgar’s victory at UFC 118 was highly impressive and solidifies the kid from Jersey as the top lightweight in the entire world. That is, however, until he steps back into the Octagon with the only man to put a loss on his record, Gray Maynard.
Appropriately nicknamed “The Bully”, Maynard’s decisive victory over top contender Kenny Florian positions the All-American wrestler into a title shot that many believe has been long overdue. A little over two years ago, Maynard manhandled Edgar in the Octagon for three rounds handing the current champion the first and only defeat of his career.
Edgar has improved leaps and bounds since that fight, especially in the Jiu-Jitsu and boxing departments, but Maynard just might be his kryptonite. “The Bully” isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing fighter to the eyes of most fans, but his relentless grinding style has been unstoppable to this point. He is the 155-pound version of Jon Fitch and unfortunately there isn’t a Georges St. Pierre at lightweight that can counteract his wrestling.
Styles make fights and the fact remains that the unbeaten Maynard is still a poor stylistic matchup for Edgar. Edgar tried to utilize his speed in the first fight to no avail as the overwhelming Division I wrestler took “The Answer” down at will and implemented the same gameplan that has kept his unbeaten record intact.
As mentioned earlier, the champion’s Jiu-Jitsu technique and his ability to get up off his back has improved drastically in the past two years. That said, there is a big difference between having B.J Penn on top of you and having Maynard bully you around from the top position. Penn is an absolute terror on top but he doesn’t possess the unbelievable strength and wrestling prowess of Maynard.
Fans can cry all they want about “lay and pray” but Maynard isn’t doing anything different than what current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre has been doing in his recent bouts. He’s using his strengths to overwhelm his opponent’s weaknesses and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that as it continuously gets the job done.
Getting into statistics, Maynard has one of the highest successful takedown percentages on the UFC roster with a staggering 75%, second only to welterweight kingpin St. Pierre. The only bout in his UFC career that Maynard was unable to impose his will with his wrestling was his fight against Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 20.
It was, however, a fight that displayed Maynard’s improved technical boxing ability. Diaz is a frustrating opponent for any fighter with his long reach and scrappy striking, but Maynard handled himself well and seemingly beat Diaz to the punch on the feet to earn the close split decision.
Certain pundits falsely label Maynard as a one-dimensional fighter and that is completely absurd. If Maynard were a one trick pony he would have been choked out by Florian, stopped by Diaz, finished by Roger Huerta and so on and so forth. Maynard has standup and Jiu-Jitsu skills in his arsenal, but you can’t fault the man for using what got him to the dance in the first place—his wrestling.
Edgar and Maynard have both changed a lot since their battle at UFC Fight Night 13, but when they face off in the Octagon again the result will be much of the same. Not to take anything away from Edgar, he is a true champion but Maynard is a brick wall that Edgar, or any lightweight for that matter, will not be able to stop.
Whether they love him or hate him, Maynard is the uncrowned champion of the lightweight division and has been for quite some time. After tossing Florian around like a rag doll, it is getting very difficult for the critics to ignore “The Bully”. He isn’t the most exciting fighter or the most marketable, but there isn’t a soul in the UFC’s 155-lbs division that can stop him.
Follow Mitch Ciccarelli on twitter @mitchciccarelli