Originally published to ArizonaSports.com via the Power MMA Show
While the main event of this free fight card would be little more than the first bout of a major Pay-Per-View, the rubber match between UFC veterans Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz is sure to be worth the watch. With both lightweights on the receiving end of a violent knockout in their last bouts, the loser of this fight will see his championship aspirations all but shattered, as they will have a difficult time working their way back up the most stacked division in all of mixed martial arts. But a win would not only reestablish them legitimate contenders but also earn them bragging rights in one of the most underrated trilogies in UFC history.
This bout is a tale of two polar opposite strikers. The hulking Maynard loves to land powerful shots to put his opponents to sleep. In fact, his nine-second knockout victory over Joe Veres at UFC Fight Night 11 is the fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history and in his series of fights with Frankie Edgar, Maynard used his strong boxing skills to put his former rival on the canvas on multiple occasions. But Diaz is the picture perfect definition of a volume striker as his 238 significant strikes landed against Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 is the single-fight record in the UFC lightweight division.
The last time these two men fought Diaz landed 29 more significant strikes . Combine this with the fact Maynard hasn’t out struck an opponent since his fight with now retired Kenny Florian back in 2010 and it’s safe to say Diaz will easily throw more frequently and connect with more punches on come fight night. But Maynard has shown to be more than capable of evading strikes with an impressive 72 percent of his opponent strikes connecting with nothing but air. But in his last bout with T.J. Grant, Maynard was staggered by multiple jabs and was eventually put away with strikes against the cage. While Diaz doesn’t have the knockout power of Grant, Maynard will have to cover up if he hopes to last the whole 15 minutes. So, I give the edge to Diaz by the smallest of margins.
An easy one to give an edge to as Maynard, an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler from Michigan State, brings one of the best wrestling attacks in the entire 155-pound division. Against a fellow standout wrestler in Edgar, ‘The Bully’ was able to land 12 takedown in the span of three fights so he has proven he is more than capable of taking the fight to the canvas with ease. Once on top of his opponent Maynard utilizes his impressive ground-and-pound to beat the will out his opponents.
But in his last fight with Diaz, Maynard did not attempt a single takedown. Chances are this will change, as Diaz’s takedown defense is one of the worst in the entire division as he’s been taken down 10 times in his last three fights. Again, this is an ease one to decide as Edgar is the only to take Maynard down in the last 4 years and no fighter has outclassed Maynard in the wrestling department. So it is highly unlikely Diaz, who only has two takedowns in three years, will be the one to out-grapple the former Spartan.
In the first meeting between these two men, Diaz threw every single submission in the book at Maynard before final locking on a choke and securing the submission victory. Maynard hasn’t been submitted since and that loss most certainly played a major factor in his decision not to attempt takedown in the second meeting as working out as Diaz’s guard is incredibly dangerous. Diaz, who’s eight submission victories are tied with Kenny Florian and Frank Mir for the most by any fighter in modern UFC history, is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Caesar Gracie so if the fight is taken to the canvas he will have no trouble holding his own as five of eight victories have come off his back.
I have a very strong feeling this will turn into more of a boxing match instead of an MMA fight. Diaz has no chance of taking Maynard down and Maynard will most certainly want no part of Diaz’s guard so look for both fighters to land strikes from the outside with occasional head kick. If Maynard has any hope of winning he can’t stand in front of his opponent like did his last few fights. If he can stick and move and avoid the “punches in bunches” that Diaz in known for, I see Maynard walking out the winner of the trilogy.
Maynard via Unanimous Decision
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
• Jessica Rakoczy def. Juliana Peña (TUF 18 Women’s Finale)
• Chris Holdsworth def. David Grant (TUF 18 Men’s Finale)
• Jessamyn Duke def. Peggy Morgan
• Raquel Pennington def. Roxanne Modafferi
• Maximo Blanco def. Akira Corissani
• Tom Niinimaki def. Rani Yahya
• Walt Harris def. Jard Rosholt
• Sean Spencer def. Drew Dober
• Josh Samp def. Ryan Benoit
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