UFC Fight Night 20 Preview

Maynard vs. Diaz

Jan 10, 2010
Everyone hates Mondays -- the first day of the work week and the last day of the week anyone wants to be bothered. Thankfully, the fine folks at Zuffa LLC have scheduled a suitable chaser with UFC Fight Night 20 this Monday at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. The world-ranked Gray Maynard serves as the obvious draw, as he puts his undefeated record and lightweight title aspirations on the line against Nate Diaz.

The latest chapter in the Mexico-Oregon war, the possibility of watching the new “Just Bleed Guy” bleed and the return of the world’s toughest surgical technologist rounds out our daily intake of vitamin violence. All in all, we have plenty of reasons to save our postal episode for next Monday.

Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz

The Breakdown: Thanks to B.J. Penn’s ongoing curb-stomping of the lightweight division, Maynard could become the next challenger to the Hawaiian’s crown if he can keep his airways and limbs intact against Diaz. For the younger Diaz brother, this fight represents a chance at redemption after his 2009 campaign was hamstrung by losses to Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida.

In both of those fights, Diaz’s stellar submission skills were negated by his non-existent wrestling. Perhaps just as troubling, his striking lacks accuracy and generally looks like slightly accelerated tai chi. Contrast that with Maynard, a suffocating wrestler who will hold a significant advantage in both hand speed and punching power. As usual, Diaz has to hope his spider web of a jiu-jitsu game wins out, but that strategy means he will have to deal with Maynard giving him the little brother treatment every step of the way.

With less than 10 fights under his belt, Maynard’s surprising discipline really tips this match in his favor. It may not win him many fans, but he avoids mistakes on the mat by staying conservative with his ground-and-pound and maintaining control of his own posture, neither of which will give Diaz the opportunity to create the scrambles in which he has proven so effective. As long as Maynard sticks to his modus operandi, it will take nothing short of a mid-fight seizure for Diaz to find the openings “The Bully” keeps bolted shut.

The X-Factor: The physical and tactical advantages all seem to be lined up in Maynard’s favor, but the fact remains that Diaz tapped out an inexperienced incarnation of Maynard on Season 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He has a psychological advantage, and while Maynard will undoubtedly be focused on revenge, a part of him knows even a microscopic error could end in disaster. Since that off-the-books loss, Maynard has not faced a truly great guard player; that lack of experience only makes this fight more compelling. Shutting down Roger Huerta’s guard is a far cry from trying the ultimate nullifier routine on Diaz.

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The Bottom Line: Submitting Maynard may be Diaz’s only hope, but Guida already laid out the wrestler’s game plan for defeating the Stockton, Calif., native, and one can rest assured the cerebral Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts camp has made that fight regular viewing. Odds are onlookers will be feeling a sense of déjà vu throughout the fight, as Maynard controls position and pace en route to a predictably bland unanimous decision win.
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