Our thoughts exactly. Props: MMAMania
Gray Maynard has never been the most popular UFC fighter. Maybe it’s because it’s almost impossible to picture him as an underdog; he’s an enormous lightweight who lives up his “Bully” moniker. (His choice of entrance music probably doesn’t do him any favors, either.) He’s always Goliath, and in our society we’re conditioned to root for David. That attitude was epitomized in Frankie Edgar’s back-to-back comebacks against him, with the crowd firmly in favor of the smaller fighter who seemed to rely on his will and technique, while Maynard relied on his size and power. As long as Maynard’s achievements were contextualized within that narrative, he would always be the villain.
Clay Guida won the first two rounds of their main event last night by constantly remaining out of Maynard’s reach, dictating the pace, occasionally landing jabs, and landing a solid head kick in the latter half of the second round. The action had been sparse throughout, but it seemed understandable; Guida obviously didn’t want to engage Maynard head on at first, he’d tire him out and then wear him down. Well, that didn’t happen. For the majority of the third round, Guida squandered whatever momentum he may have built by circling, dancing, and circling some more. It was UFC 112 Anderson Silva on meth. By the end of the round, Maynard was flailing with power punches, frustrated by Guida’s unwillingness to engage.
Midway through the fourth round, Maynard had enough. With Guida still circling and refusing to engage, Maynard finally grabbed a hold of him, landed some knees and then proceeding to embody the audience’s frustrations by dropping his hands and bellowing epithets, daring Guida to just stop running and hit him. Guida proceeded to oblige him, only to have Maynard walk through a hard overhand right, stuff a takedown and almost secure an arm-in guillotine in an unprecedented display of attitude and badassery that it actually caused fans to cheer him. Round 5 was unfortunately more of the same, which is to say, not much at all.
At the end of the fight, Maynard was awarded a split-decision, with two 48-47’s and one 47-48. I don’t have a problem with the decision, though I can understand why some might; the fight was difficult to score just because so little happened during it. But that’s not what this night should be remembered for; this is the night that Gray Maynard broke the narrative paradigm that has plagued him throughout his UFC career. By expressing the frustration that so many of us felt, Maynard wasn’t a bully anymore; last night, he was one of us.
Well, and the night that Clay Guida single-handedly destroyed his reputation as a fan-favorite. Hey, I’m trying for the glass half-full approach here, people. Moving on…
Disappointing main event aside, this was a pretty good card. Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher lived up to expectations, in what was – I imagine – either the most difficult or the easiest fight to live blog of the night. (It depends if you try to actually give a play by play, or simply copy and paste “They engage. Both land shots,” over and over.) Although Fisher seemed to get the better of the standup exchanges ever so slightly, Stout sealed his victories by nailing takedowns in each round, securing the unanimous decision in their trilogy fight.
Just as interesting was the ground war waged between young gun T.J. Waldburger and battle-tested, immaculately manscaped Brian Ebersole. Waldburger got off to a fast start, dropping Ebersole with a straight left, and almost finishing him on the ground with a D’Arce choke. Despite his face turning the color of Prince’s garments of choice, Ebersole survived. In the next round, Ebersole escaped from an omoplata, an arm bar, and two triangle chokes. Despite Waldburger’s active guard, Ebersole took the round on the strength of his ground and pound, turning it on in the final seconds. The deciding round saw Ebersole secure a takedown, escape yet another triangle, and deliver shoulder strikes and elbows until the bell rang. It was enough for Ebersole to take a unanimous decision, 29-28 across the board. With this momentum, Ebersole plans to set up a higher profile fight at 170 in an attempt to… wait, no, apparently he’s going to try to cut to 155. Huh?
Cub Swanson and Ross Pearson was another highly entertaining fight, in which Swanson really got to show off just what was in his arsenal. Although Pearson was clearly the larger and stronger of the two, Swanson’s speed and ingenuity allowed him to get the better of the exchanges. At one point in the first round, Swanson threw a capoeira kick that would impress Anthony Pettis, which Pearson didn’t even flinch from, with Swanson following with upkicks from his back. The end came as Pearson pushed forward, Swanson landed two jabs, pivoted to his left and unleashed a counter left hook that sent Pearson crashing into the fence at 4:14 of the second round. Bring on Do Bronx, please.
The prelims were generally solid, but the highlight had to be Ricardo Lamas’ upset of Hatsu Hioki. Hioki had passed on a title fight with Jose Aldo because he believed he wasn’t ready to face him, and took the fight with Lamas as a tune up to that title shot. Well, it proved to be the right decision, because there was no way Hioki was ready for a title shot. After winning the first round and losing a competitive second round, Hioki was utterly ineffective in the third. It’s not so much that Lamas dominated him, although he did almost submit him with a number of guillotines, so much as Hioki just didn’t do anything in the final round. His standup looked atrocious, and his cardio looked almost as bad.