TUF 18 Finale: Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz full head-to-toe breakdown
While the main event of this free fight card would be little more than the first bout of a major Pay-Per-View, the rubber match between UFC veterans Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz is sure to be worth a watch.
With both lightweights on the receiving end of a violent knockout in their last bouts, the loser of this fight will see his championship aspirations all but shattered, as he will have a difficult time working his way up the most stacked division in all of mixed martial arts. But, a win would not only reestablish him as a legitimate contender, but also earn him bragging rights in one of the most underrated trilogies in UFC history.
This bout is a tale of two polar opposite strikers. The hulking Maynard loves to land powerful shots to put his opponents away. In fact, his nine-second knockout victory over Joe Veres at UFC Fight Night 11 is the fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history. And in his series of fights with Frankie Edgar, Maynard used his strong boxing skills to put his former rival on queer on multiple occasions. But Diaz is the picture perfect definition of a volume striker, as his 238 significant strikes landed against Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 is the single-fight record in the UFC lightweight division.
The last time these two men fought, Diaz landed 29 more significant strikes. Combine this with the fact Maynard hasn’t out struck an opponent since his fight with Kenny Florian back in 2010, and it’s safe to say Diaz will easily throw more frequently and connect with more punches come fight night.
But Maynard has shown to be more than capable of evading strikes with an impressive 72 percent of his opponent strikes connecting with nothing but air. But in his last bout with T.J. Grant, Maynard was staggered by multiple jabs and eventually put away with strikes against the cage. While Diaz doesn’t have the knockout power of Grant, Maynard will have to cover up if he hopes to last the whole 15 minutes. So, I give the edge to Diaz by the smallest of margins.
> Edge: Diaz
An easy one to give an edge to as Maynard, an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, brings one of the best wrestling attacks in the entire 155-pound division. Against a fellow standout wrestler in Edgar, “The Bully” was able to land 12 takedowns in the span of three fights, so he has proven he is more than capable of taking the fight to the canvas with ease. Once on top of his opponent, Maynard utilizes his impressive ground-and-pound to beat the will out his opponents.
But in his last fight with Diaz, Maynard did not attempt a single takedown. Chances are this will change, as Diaz’s takedown defense is one of the worst in the entire division. In fact, in his three fights, he has been on the receiving end of a takedown 10 times. Again, this is an ease one to decide as Edgar is the only to take Maynard down in the last four years, and no fighter has outclassed Maynard in the wrestling department. So it is highly unlikely Diaz, who only has two takedowns in three years, will be the one to out-grapple the former Michigan State standout.
> Edge: Maynard
If the last matchup was an easy one to judge, this one should be just as easy. In the first meeting between these two men, Diaz threw every single submission in the book at Maynard before final locking on a choke and securing the submission victory. Maynard hasn’t been submitted since, and the loss most certainly played a major factor in his decision not to attempt a takedown in the second meeting, since working out Diaz’s guard is incredibly dangerous.
Diaz, whose eight submission victories are tied with Kenny Florian and Frank Mir for the most by any fighter in modern UFC history, is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Caesar Gracie. So if the fight is taken to the canvas, he will have no trouble holding his own — as five of eight victories have come off his back.
> Edge: Diaz
I have a very strong feeling this will turn into more of boxing match instead of an MMA fight. Diaz has not a chance of taking Maynard down, and Maynard will most certainly want no part of Diaz’s guard; so look for both fighters to land strikes from the outside with occasional head kick.
If Maynard has any hope of winning, he can’t stand in front of his opponent like did his last few fights. If he can stick and move and avoid the “punches in bunches” that Diaz in known for, I see Maynard walking out the winner of the trilogy.
> Maynard via Unanimous Decision
Here are the rest of my predictions for the main card and preliminary bouts:
• Jessica Rakoczy def. Juliana Peña (TUF 18 Women’s Finale)
• Chris Holdsworth def. David Grant (TUF 18 Men’s Finale)
• Jessamyn Duke def. Peggy Morgan
• Maximo Blanco def. Akira Corissani
• Rani Yahya def. Tom Niinimaki
• Walt Harris def. Jard Rosholt
• Sean Spencer def. Drew Dober
• Josh Samp def. Ryan Benoit