The Ultimate Fighting Championship sets up shop at Atlantic City, New Jersey’s Revel Casino on Friday night to present UFC on FX 4. “The Real Deal” Ross Pearson (13-5) battles Cub Swanson (16-5) in the main card’s opening bout. The highly eccentric veteran “Bad Boy” Brian Ebersole (49-14-1) will take on submission ace TJ Waldburger (15-6) in the welterweight division. The co-main event sees the final battle of an epic rivalry as “Hands of Stone” Sam Stout (17-7-1) and “The King” Spencer Fisher (24-8) battle it out once again with each man hoping to break the tie in this famous trilogy. Rounding off the card though sees another pivotal match-up in the 155lbs. division as “The Carpenter” Clay Guida (29-11) takes on his fellow contender “The Bully” Gray Maynard (10-1-1). Each man has stumbled in their past endeavors but with the lightweight division as competitive as ever, it’s crucial at this point for each fighter to come out on top.
At First Glance: The lightweight division is always in a cluster as one win can suddenly draw one near title glory and one loss can bring one back to ground zero. Enter Gray Maynard and Clay Guida. “The Bully” had two chances to take the title from “The Answer” Frankie Edgar (14-2) but failed to do so, giving up a Draw and his first defeat. Now in his return fight after eight months, Maynard has much to prove to show he can still be a contender at 155lbs. Clay Guida has always come close but has fallen short in the fights that matter. Guida gave up a spirited Unanimous Decision loss to “Smooth” Ben Henderson (16-2) who would later challenge and win the title. Guida will have to belittle Maynard in order to show that he has plenty to offer the other top contenders, otherwise he will have to wait longer and fight much tougher opponents who could surpass him if he fails to win Friday night.
In Depth: Guida and Maynard are two fighters cut from the same cloths. They are powerhouse grapplers who bring their own unique striking to follow. Maynard, the former lightweight contender, holds one of the fastest knockout victories over Joe Veres (4-3) credited to a quick left hook back in 2007. Since then, Maynard’s pugilist skillset has steadily increased with formidable showings against “The Mongoose” Jim Miller (21-4) and his rival Frankie Edgar where he had the former champion rocked on multiple occasions. Maynard’s power is prevalent but Guida is easily one of the most durable fighters in the lightweight division, making a (T)KO stoppage not impossible but definitely hard to come by. While Guida seems to lack the expertise as Maynard in the stand-up department, he seems to understand that with his erratic pace coupled with quick punches, he can easily land the strikes that matter. His best chances on the feet will lie in using that pace and footwork to pepper Maynard to avoid his bigger shots.
Should the battle on the ground turn into a wrestling display, the advantage would have to go once again to Maynard. Alongside light heavyweight “Suga” Rashad Evans (17-2), Maynard spent his time on the mats wrestling for Michigan State where he ended his collegiate career with high accolades. As it translated into MMA, Maynard has used his wrestling as a matter of control to grind the victory. Guida’s wrestling is respectable as he has grounded some top notch names but laying on his back with a former NCAA Div. I wrestler will tell the obvious difference in class between them. Where Guida will compensate over Maynard is if he can initiate a Jiu-Jitsu offensive as he is the more accomplished submission artist between the two with 15 submission victories to his name over Maynard’s one. For him to succeed though “The Carpenter” will have to rely on his ability to push the pace quickly and effectively in the hopes to stutter Maynard just as he did against “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (33-8) and Shannon Gugerty (14-6) in order to lock in a submission from the top. Guida needs to avoid being on his back by all means; if he cannot scramble out or keep busy from the bottom, Maynard will stay on top maintaining control and implementing an effective ground-and-pound just as Jiu-Jitsu black belt “Ken-Flo” Kenny Florian (14-6) found out firsthand.
The Wild Card: Returning from his first career loss, Gray Maynard has made the significant change of switching camps from Xtreme Couture to setting up shop with the American Kickboxing Academy and affiliating with Brazil’s Nova União gym. Meshed together, it will be interesting to see just how well the striking and submission specialities each camp offers compliments Maynard’s already stout skillset. Already having gone through two fights that ended in championship rounds, Maynard should be used to the conditioning required to last that long. The difference is if what he picked up from relocating rubbed off on him, he might not have to worry about maintenance of his pace as much as he would have previously.
The Verdict: Match-ups between two fighters bouncing back from losses where title aspirations are on the line make for some of the most entertaining as both combatants know a phenomenal showing can shoot them back into the runnings for gold. Maynard presents the power-filled striking with unforgiving wrestling while Guida presents an underlying submission game and treacherous pace that can pick apart fighters in any department if they cannot keep up. A stoppage seems highly unlikely for both fighters and while Guida might always have the cardio advantage, Maynard’s strength and control as a wrestler and solid hands should be able to tame “The Carpenter” in a very close match. Maynard via Unanimous Decision