Gray Maynard's left hand on Frank Edgar at UFC 125 sparked an all-time classic. | Photo: Sherdog.com
It turned into a 25-minute docudrama on the power of the human spirit.
On Jan. 1, 2011, Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard shared something special, something life- and career-altering, when they dueled for the lightweight championship in the UFC 125 “Resolution” main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Five rounds, one of the most violent and one-sided periods in recent memory among them, were not enough to decide the outcome, as Sherdog’s “Fight of the Year” for 2011 ended in a split draw.
It was a fitting, albeit inconclusive, finish to a remarkable encounter between two of the world’s best at 155 pounds. The fact that no one anticipated it -- so low were the expectations, in fact, that the two headliners did not even have their names on the marquee -- only enhanced the memorability factor. They had met previously in a rather non-descript three-round bout, which Maynard won by unanimous decision. Nothing about this fight screamed classic. Then it began.
In the rematch, Edgar retained his title in a fiercely contested draw with Maynard, weathering a first round in which he was brutalized by nearly 100 power punches from the challenger. That Edgar reached round two was a monumental feat in itself. Clocked by a ringing left hook a little more than a minute into the match, he was on his heels for the remainder of the first period. Maynard appeared close to finishing it on a number of occasions, as he waylaid the champion with a relentless volley of punches, spearheaded by a pair of wicked right uppercuts. Miraculously, Edgar stayed alive, even as he teetered on the brink, his crown hanging in the balance. When asked what he remembered about the first five minutes, he replied, “Not much.”
Maynard recalled quite a bit more.
“It could have been stopped easily, I thought. He was all over the place,” he said. “I think it was a left hook. I caught him. It was a clean one. I tried to put him away.”
Considering the manner in which he dominated the opening stanza, Maynard called the judges’ scorecards into question. Two judges, Marcos Rosales and Glenn Trowbridge, saw it 48-46, Rosales for Maynard, Trowbridge for Edgar. A third, Patricia Morse-Jarman, ruled it a 47-47 deadlock.
“I dropped him .... how many times? Five? He didn’t land a punch,” said Maynard, who was officially credited with three first-round knockdowns. “[That round was] at least a 10-8, maybe even a 10-7.”
Maynard’s pace slowed noticeably in the second round, and Edgar crept back into the fight. His speed, footwork and quick combinations returned, along with a powerful slam that wowed the Sin City crowd. The back-and-forth encounter spilled into round three, as Maynard answered with power punches and a pair of takedowns of his own.
“Yeah, I was swinging for the fences [in the first round]. I was trying to knock him out that whole round. That’s a lot of work. That’s like a sprint,” Maynard said. “I felt a little tired, and I had to ease back a bit. Then I got going again in round three. He’s a tough kid, but I thought that was my fight.”
Edgar secured two takedowns in the fourth and threatened his challenger with a standing guillotine choke against the cage. Maynard escaped and pushed the fight into the final round. There, Edgar utilized a variety of strikes -- combinations, jabs and knees to the head and body -- to keep Maynard guessing and the 155-pound belt around his waist. They traded blows at the end of it, providing a worthy conclusion to a memorable rematch.
“The first round wasn’t my round, obviously, but [the] last four I thought I won,” said Edgar, who settled the score between the two nine months later, when he scored a dramatic fourth-round knockout over Maynard at UFC 136. “[It came down to] having the team behind me and knowing I had 20 minutes left in the fight. I felt I could bounce back. [Referee Yves Lavigne] was just [telling me to] keep fighting, but I don’t think he was on the verge of stopping it.”
For five minutes, Maynard looked like the best 155-pound fighter in the world, but he left the cage empty-handed. It was a bitter pill for him to swallow. At the post-fight news conference, Maynard was asked if perhaps a loss on his record might have been easier to tolerate than the grossly unsatisfying result of a draw. Curt in his reply, he set the record straight.
“F--- no, I don’t want a loss. I want the belt. I thought I had it,” Maynard said. “I thought the belt was mine. Obviously, it doesn’t feel good. I thought that was my fight. I thought I had the belt. I worked my ass off for this. I don’t know. I guess it kind of hurts.”