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The Trouble With Gray Maynard (And Why It’s Not All His Fault)

(What no one told Gray Maynard about the UFC’s locker room bonuses is that if you win in spectacular fashion, you get a big check. But every time you notch a plodding decision, you get stuck with another orphan.)

A Gray Maynard fight is a little but like a Michael Bay movie.  You always know exactly what you’re going to get, and even though it isn’t anything that’s going to change your life, it’s still not a terrible way to spend a Wednesday night if you go into it with the right attitude.  What Maynard showed once again against a game Roger Huerta is that he’s patient.  He said his plan was to move in and throw no more than two punches at a time before getting out, and that’s what he did.  He wanted to avoid getting into a shootout with Huerta, and he was successful.  In short, Maynard fought the smartest fight he could in order to guarantee victory.  So why does the possibility of him getting a title shot seem more like a threat than a hopeful promise?

It’s simple, really, and the answer lies with Nate Quarry, who also won a decision on last night’s Fight Night card, pocketing a Fight of the Night bonus in the process.  As Quarry said in his pre-fight comments, you don’t become a legend by winning decisions.  Unless, as was the case in his bout with Credeur, those decisions come at the end of a back-and-forth slugfest.  The point is, nobody likes to see a fighter play it safe.  Limiting yourself to two-punch combos may be a great way to limit the possibility of being caught with a good counter, but it’s a horrible way to make fans excited about seeing you fight, which is exactly what Maynard himself said is standing in between him and a potential title shot.

See, there’s a disconnect between the two mentalities that UFC competition breeds.  On one hand, there’s always a spot for an exciting fighter, and it’s the exciting guys who tend to get the title shots even if they haven’t strung together more than a handful of wins in a row.  But being exciting means taking chances, which means gambling with your job and your win bonus.  That’s guaranteed money, don’t forget.  Just like it’s guaranteed that the UFC won’t cut you after a loss.

To understand why Maynard fights so conservatively, go back and listen to Tim Credeur’s post-fight speech.  He put on a hell of a show, was one half of the Fight of the Night, and lost his first UFC fight, in part because he continued to open himself up for counters when he had Quarry in trouble.  So why did he spend much of his interview time with Kenny Florian practically begging not to be cut? 

To his credit, last night Maynard came about as close to finishing an opponent as he has in several fights.   If it wasn’t for Huerta’s freakish flexibility or pain tolerance (after seeing his shoulder blade poke out of his back like a bad Hollywood special effect I’m still not sure which played the greater role), that kimura would have put him away and broke Maynard’s decision streak. 

But the fact that Maynard goes into a fight looking to avoid a “crazy war,” while Quarry shows up looking to avoid a boring decision, that should tell us something about the difficult balance between two entirely separate fighter mentalities.  Both have their drawbacks, which anyone who saw Quarry’s face or Maynard’s wallet after last night should know.  You can fight to avoid risk or you can fight to entertain, but it’s very difficult to do both. 

Maynard’s tried one.  If he wants to be a champion and a legend of the sport – both of which he has the talent and the drive to be some day – he’s going to need to give the other a shot, and soon.


Cagepotato Comments

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Komodo- September 17, 2009 at 10:49 pm
^^ What Squirrelnuts said.
Squirrelnuts- September 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm
good article CP, very thought provoking.
JoseMonkey- September 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm
Damn, Ben. You hit the freakin' nail on the head, once again. Thoughtful analysis, as always. Thanks for always giving us something to think about.
Socal Tot- September 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm
You cant spell Bloodlust without tool. I kid. I agree with you. Roger has a big heart and its a shame he is going on a hiatus from MMA competition.
Bloodlust- September 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm
Maynard did what he had to do to get the w, like he always does (and like a smart fighter with passion for winning). He actually stood and traded more than I thought he would. It had been so long since Huerta fought and I vaguely remembered being quite the fan of his. He reminded me why. Seeing him refusing to give in and tap to that kimura was awesome. He's also got a great chin. You cant spell Huerta without heart.
One Two- September 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm
I agree with kid D The yellow card was awesome, if you wanted to try to lay n pray or run away your ass got yellowcarded, do you remember what happened after the yellowcards? a goddamn fight! thats what.
Contraband- September 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm
The Man- September 17, 2009 at 1:49 pm
fucking stupid post in my opinion . Maynard is smart. and was hitting Huerta with shots man. I still dont understand how some people were giving Huerta rounds when he was getting dropped. Huerta got dropped by one of Maynard's jabs for christ's sake. Im a big fan of maynard and i think he should stick to what hes been doing. his boxing has gotten better, hes quick, has power. I like how he boxed for two rounds and utilized his wrestling in the third round. Maynard dont listen to fuckin morons.
Socal Tot- September 17, 2009 at 1:48 pm
BF is definitely onto something here. I think Gurgel wore out his welcome much like Andy Wang did in his stint on TUF. It is good to see a BJJ guy improving all facets of his game, but please don't forget that you are a BJJ expert. If Gurgel began his fights standing and banging and then transitioned with a takedown to dominate with his BJJ, he would likely still be a UFC fighter with a winning record. Gray has great wrestling. He should stand and bang for a bit, do a huge take down, G&P, stand back up and repeat. He can't continue to fight not to lose. That was the beginning of the demise of Tim Sylvia. You have to take risks as a fighter. You can still calculate them, but fighting not to lose is a losing strategy. Credeur will definitely not be cut based on his last fight.
KidDinomite- September 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm
@ Fight Fan

True when you have refs like Yves Lavigne and Steve Mazagatti or judges like Cecil Peoples the idea wouldn't play out so well. But you also have great refs like Mario Yamasaki, Herb Dean, John McCarthy, etc. it would actually work out.

Personally, I watch MMA to see well-rounded fighters who train smart and move with skill and precision not to see a guy who claims to be a wrestler lay on another guy for 15 minutes. That's bad for the sport and not a good representation of what a lot of these other guys do. I'm not asking for K-1 here but after seeing Couture and Nogueira's ground battle, that is the standard for ground combat in my mind. Sure there are guys who are better but even more that are worse.
NateGetsIrate- September 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm
As an example of what I was saying, I've always thought The Crow was exciting to watch in his brief time in the UFC, what with his spinning back kick and razor-sharp elbows. But he lost too many times and nobody wants to see him fight now. I guarantee that affects his endorsement deals in the worst way.
Fight Fan- September 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm
@ KidDinomite

Yeah, that what the sport needs. More intervention from judges, or from referees. It's not enough that they determine the outcome of so many fights, they should also dictate how fights unfold.

Nothing wrong with being one dimensional if it's enough to win. I would prefer that fighters become multi-dimensional out of fear of not getting their asses handed to them, than because refs will throw out cards.

That Dream card thing was always a joke.
KidDinomite- September 17, 2009 at 1:15 pm
Like I've said before, they should do away with points for takedowns and fine the fighters 10% of their pay with a yellow card if they don't work on the ground and just lay there. Points would be awarded for ground technique, control and submission attempts - The very same principle they use in Dream.

You would then see a HELL of a lot more fighters that were previously boring become explosive. It helps in that it forces 'wrestlers' to also learn how to strike effectively and not win in a pussified manner like we saw last night. Clay Guida, Matt Hughes and Gray Maynard would actually have to work on not being one-dimensional fighters.
GEE-yuh-TEEN- September 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm
You need highlights in order to be in a title shot. If Maynard got a title shot today, they would have to show clips of him laying on guys to hype the fight.

If he'd learn some masterful submissions, he'd be able to finish fights better. He can already take anyone to the ground.
Marv- September 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm
I'd rather be a recognizable name than a boring fighter.

recognizable name = endorsement deal
NateGetsIrate- September 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm
From a fighter's point of view (just saying if i was one and not a desk jockey like the rest of you)... i'd rather be a boring fighter who wins, then an exciting fighter who doesn't have anything at the end of the day but a recognizable name. Nobody liked Silva v. Leites, but guess who's still on top?
One Two- September 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm
maynard doesn't have a choice he's not good enough to win a fight without lay n prayin, hugging or running away. whats sad is the UFC and the judges reward these boring talentless fucks. real legends are the guys w/ enough skill to actually fight and still win. he just doesn't have the talent yet maybe he'll get there someday like EZ$ said it worked for Machida.
EzMoNeY- September 17, 2009 at 11:58 am
gray was fine, i don't think that fighters need to go jorge gurgel in every fight just to be worthy of a title shot. actually, it's pretty cringe worthy to watch a guy like gray just to go outside of his game and attempt to brawl and catsmash like chris leben. it's like if Michael Bay turned away from making blockbusters and devoted himself to making shitty low budget drama's about half retarded british kids just to try and win an oscar. fighters should just stick to your game and what their good at, with time+success, people start to get on the bandwagon. it worked for lyoto, it can work for gray.
Fight Fan- September 17, 2009 at 11:57 am
You can play it safe, win a decision, and maybe one day earn a title shot, or you can go balls out, lose and be guaranteed to never have a title shot.

Tough call.
ArmFarmer- September 17, 2009 at 11:28 am
I was entertained by Maynards fight last night.. but that might have had something to do with the $100 condit/maynard/diaz parlay I had going. I still think it was a good fight though. Heurta is a very tough opponent so I can understand Gray not wanting to get overly aggressive/sloppy and get Guida'd.
ihateemo- September 17, 2009 at 11:24 am
I skipped the post-fight interviews so I could go for a smoke. Did Credeur really think he's in danger of being cut based on his first loss, especially after he almost finished Quarry in the first round?
BallPtPenTheif- September 17, 2009 at 11:21 am
Of course you can blame him for "playing" to win. Unfortunately many people want to see a fight, not a "match".
DiazBros209- September 17, 2009 at 11:12 am
Although I would much rather see an exciting fighter fight than a safe one,
Maynard fights to win, and you can't really blame a guy for doing that.
Bodybodyhead- September 17, 2009 at 11:10 am
thats a very good point, maynard has the potential but he always plays it safe and decisive, no pun intended
Lysol- September 17, 2009 at 11:09 am
"Maynard’s tried one. If he wants to be a champion and a legend of the sport – both of which he has the talent and the drive to be some day – he’s going to need to give the other a shot, and soon."

For example of this, see Lyoto Machida.