When you are a top-tier lightweight employed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, there is no such thing as a breather. Case in point: the UFC on FX 4 headliner, which pits Gray Maynard against Clay Guida on Friday at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
Maynard and Guida are coming off losses, but there is no shame in their setbacks considering the level of competition. “The Bully” fell short in his third bout against former champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 136, while “The Carpenter” lost a spirited decision to current titleholder Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 1.
While both men are well-established contenders, a loss could seriously damage the title hopes for either of them given the depth of the 155-pound division. There is plenty at stake, and that makes for good MMA viewing.
Here is a closer look at the UFC on FX 4 “Maynard vs. Guida,” with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on FX 4 Free Fan Pick’Em
Gray Maynard (10-1-1, 1 NC, 8-1-1, 1 NC, UFC) vs. Clay Guida (29-12, 9-6 UFC)
The Matchup: For the first time since August 2010, Maynard will be facing someone other than Edgar in the Octagon. The results of his last two bouts with “The Answer” ultimately proved to be unsatisfying, as Maynard started quickly but was unable to dethrone the then-lightweight champion on either occasion.
Guida came up short against Henderson in No. 1 contender’s bout at UFC on Fox 1 in a rollicking three-round affair that could have added some much needed substance to that historic broadcast. With that in mind, it appears neither man has drifted too far from the championship course; an impressive victory here would serve to keep either one in the top contender discussion.
Long bouts have often been the norm for these UFC veterans, as both Guida and Maynard have hovered just below 15 minutes per fight during their careers. An extended battle appears likely here, as well, especially since the matchup features a pair of lightweights who often rely on a stout wrestling base to succeed.
Though Maynard has more power in his hands than Guida, a knockout victory by “The Bully” seems highly unlikely. Guida has proven to be ultra-durable over the years -- he survived a first-round swarm from Henderson in his last outing -- and has never been knocked out in 41 professional fights. The Chicagoan is most susceptible to a strong submission game, which is not a forte of Maynard’s. Even so, Guida’s jiu-jitsu has improved by leaps and bounds since joining forces with Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts.
Guida will have to be on alert early because Maynard can hurt him with his left hook or right uppercut, although sealing the deal has been another issue entirely for “The Ultimate Fighter 5” alum. While not as technically skilled on the feet as Edgar -- he confounded Maynard with good footwork and lateral movement -- Guida’s seemingly bottomless gas tank figures to test his opponent as the fight enters the later stages.
The striking of “The Carpenter” relies on awkward movement and quick punches; the Jackson’s MMA product is aware of his limitations on the feet and does not usually take unnecessary risks. Meanwhile, Maynard’s tendency to throw looping strikes leaves him open to be countered. If Guida can avoid the left hook and follow up with combinations, it will set up his shot nicely. On its own, a takedown is not likely to succeed against the solid defense and physical strength of Maynard.
Conversely, Guida’s relentless pace and constant motion figure to cause some problems for Maynard, who tends to be conservative in top position. While Maynard is a master at landing controlled ground-and-pound and maintaining posture, Guida will be extremely difficult to keep down, and he usually gets the best of scrambles and transitions. In a back-and-forth battle on the canvas, it is Guida who is more likely to pull off a submission.
There is a decent chance that takedowns will be limited given the solid wrestling of both competitors. It then comes down to who can wear down whom in clinches. Guida should look to be the initiator and make Maynard fight with his back against the fence. Otherwise, “The Bully” will follow Henderson’s lead and score points with knees and dirty boxing.
The Pick: Maynard, as has been his M.O. of late, will start strong, landing the more significant strikes and controlling the action in tie-ups. Guida will not be going anywhere, however, and as the bout proceeds to the championship rounds, his unique rhythm and pace will wear down his adversary. This bout could swing on one key moment: a takedown, a solid combination, a reversal or submission attempt. A flurry of energy down the stretch gives Guida what he needs to earn a split decision.
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