Frankie Edgar won a war against Gray Maynard at UFC 136. | AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hanson
The state of Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard’s faces hardly told the story of their third encounter as the men sat on the dais for Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
Aside from a small scrape and a sullen demeanor, Maynard did not really seem as though he’d just lost a fight. Edgar, last to arrive at the proceedings due to a medical exam, looked like he was getting an early jump on his Halloween costume. The left side of the New Jerseyan’s pate was badly swollen -- cheek puffed out, eye barely open -- while his right side remained unblemished. To someone who had not watched UFC 136, the only giveaway that Edgar won would have been the shiny lightweight title belt perched behind his nameplate.
When fights turn, they generally do so because of an action taken, but a fight can also change course as a result of something left undone. Such was the case in Houston on Saturday, when, despite inflicting remarkable damage on the champion in the opening round, Maynard appeared to let victory slip right through his hands.
Two minutes and 20 seconds into the bout, Maynard began his assault in earnest with a vicious lead right uppercut. Clearly dazed, Edgar stumbled backward as “The Bully” gave chase, duplicating the punch and finishing with a knee up the middle. Maynard swung with ill intent, lead uppercuts and left hooks, until a right hand sent the champion tumbling to the mat. Maynard looked to pounce as Edgar clung desperately to a single-leg, and then kept headhunting on the feet.
With 60 seconds left in the first round, Edgar was streaming blood from his nose, a situation which only worsened when Maynard dropped him with a knee. The challenger threw the kitchen sink at Edgar in an attempt to finish, but just as in their January meeting, Edgar absorbed all the punishment his foe could dish out and kept coming.
“I did hit him with a knee. I hit him with a right. I think I hit him with a hook. I mean, what else? If there was a bat there, I would’ve probably hit him with that, too,” Maynard said during the post-fight press conference, turning toward UFC boss Dana White to deadpan, “Where do you keep the bats in the cage?”
Foreign objects may not have been necessary if Maynard had only maintained his level of offense in subsequent rounds. Instead, the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts fighter seemed to grow more tentative as the fight wore on, allowing Edgar to regain his composure, find a rhythm on the feet and eventually score a highlight-reel fourth-round knockout. According to FightMetric.com, Maynard connected with 33 of 73 attempted strikes in the first round; over the remaining 13-plus minutes, he landed only 19 of 107.
“Maybe, yeah, I should have finished him in the second. I don’t know,” said an exasperated Maynard, who denied that hand or knee injuries had any factor in his diminished work rate. “I was trying to pick a shot. When he moves, he does a good job with that. I kind of tried to load up [on punches] a little bit instead of flowing.”
The deciding factors in Saturday’s fight were the resilience and skill of Frankie Edgar, though it was Gray Maynard’s inability to maintain momentum which shifted the fight in the champ’s direction. Maynard took his foot off the gas in round two -- not the worst idea after you’ve handily won the first of five scheduled rounds -- he just forgot to push the pedal back down.