It’s the rubber match.
Well, not really, since one of the fights ended in a draw. The main event of UFC 136 on Saturday night is the third installment of the most intriguing UFC lightweight trilogy in recent memory.
UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar will defend his title for a second time against top-rated challenger Gray Maynard. What makes the bout so interesting is the fact that Maynard is the lone man to ever defeat Edgar. He just didn’t do it in their last bout—two of the three judges didn’t think so, at least.
Maynard dominated their first bout, scoring a clear unanimous decision win. He also completely dominated the first round of the rematch, coming ultra close to scoring a win by knockout. But Edgar found a way to survive the first round, and Maynard had completely depleted his gas tank searching for the knockout, so the rest of the fight, other than possibly the third round, was controlled by Edgar.
It was one of the most dramatic reversals of fortune of 2011. Edgar survived what seemed to be a sure defeat and found a way pull out a draw, which meant that he kept the title. Maynard was understandably crushed. He couldn’t understand how a guy who took a savage beating in the first round, seemingly teetering back and forth between consciousness and nighty night time, could find a way to win. But that is why rounds are scored in microcosm. Edgar won more rounds than Maynard, so he retained his title.
On Saturday night, the pair will dance once again. Just about anything can happen in a fight like this, but the one thing that seems overwhelmingly unlikely is another draw. This puppy will end with one man’s hand raised. I’m sure of it.
What makes the bout even better is both men have to be 100 percent certain that they can win. Maynard has thoroughly dominated Edgar in four of their eight rounds of competition. Edgar has won three in convincing fashion. One round probably could have gone either way.
So, what is going to happen this time around? Honestly, this fight is no different than the prior two. The words I wrote in the week leading up to the rematch remain relevant:
Edgar is a smallish, ultra-quick lightweight who makes his living with constant movement and short bursts of fistic activity, all the while maintaining great balance so that he can either defend a takedown or take the action to the canvas, if the situation calls for it. It is a style designed to win on the judges’ cards, not necessarily one that will finish many fights. To wit, the champ has only ended two of his nine UFC bouts inside the distance.
I don’t think anything will change with Edgar’s game plan against Maynard. The reality is that the champ wants to keep as much separation as possible, while constantly changing angles with strikes. He knows he cannot outwrestle Maynard. He knows he won’t win a power contest, either. He needs to fight in precisely the same way that he did in his title-winning and title-defending efforts.
Maynard should come out with the same game plan that he had in the first fight, which was to score takedowns early in every round, keep Edgar on his back, and grind away for a stoppage or a judges’ decision. “Should” is the operative word because I’m not convinced that Maynard will come out and fight with a disciplined game plan. He may get too caught up in the moment and embark on a headhunting campaign with his always improving boxing skills. “The Bully” has more than enough juice to stop the champ with his fists, but Edgar is the cleaner, more polished striker, so I think he will dominate in the standup arena, for as long as the fight remains there.
At the end of the day, this fight is all about the matchup, and the breakdown on paper suggests that the UFC Lightweight Championship will change hands on Saturday night. Just like Edgar was BJ Penn’s kryptonite, Maynard may indeed be his.
I was wrong about the title changing hands, but the rest of the breakdown was spot on, and I don’t think anything has changed in the nine months since their last bout, particularly with Edgar. He knows he can stick and move, scoring with quick, crisp punches. He also knows that he has the deeper gas tank. He wants to drag the fight into the championship rounds where he should be able to rely on that deep gas tank (and good takedowns, by that point in the fight) to prevail on the judges’ cards.
Maynard wants nothing to do with the judges. I guarantee it. He will do everything in his power to score a knockout. And that is a huge mistake.
If Maynard hasn’t learned from his last bout, he won’t win on Saturday night. Sure, he can easily score a knockout. In fact, I think it is slightly more probable than not that he wins by knockout. But he cannot get overzealous searching for a knockout. Otherwise, he will risk the same fate he suffered on New Year’s Day.
Maynard lost the last fight for one reason and one reason alone. He punched himself out in the first round. If he fights with more control, he wins this fight easily.
Why? He is the better wrestler. He is the more powerful striker. He is the bigger, stronger man. And he already has a win over Edgar (and he believes he should have two), so he should have a mental edge. The only two relevant areas where he doesn’t surpass Edgar are his footwork while striking and his cardio. Neither of those will be relevant, if Maynard takes the fight to the ground early and pounds him out from there. Neither of those will be relevant, if Maynard lands a flush blow and methodically searches for the knockout. Neither of those will be relevant, if Maynard comes into the fight in great shape and follows a good game plan.
Then again, Edgar didn’t have any physical or skill advantages over BJ Penn. Not on paper, at least. And he beat the all-time great twice—easily. He also happened to beat Maynard easily in their last fight, if one eliminates the first round.
• 29 years old (turns 30 on October 16)
• 5’8, 155 lbs
• 13-1-1 overall (8-1-1 UFC)
• 2-0-1 in UFC title fights
• 8-0-1 in last 10 fights
• 4-0-1 in last 5
• 80% of UFC fights lasted the distance (6-1-1 in those fights)
• 1 UFC win by submission; 1 win by KO
• 4 Fight of the Night awards
• Current layoff is 280 days
• Longest layoff of UFC career is 308 days
• 32 years old
• 5’8, 155 lbs
• 11-0-1, 1 NC overall (8-0-1, 1 NC UFC)
• 0-0-1 in UFC title fights
• 8-0-1, 1 NC in last 10 fights
• 4-0-1 in last 5
• 8 consecutive fights have gone the distance (7-0-1 in those fights)
• 1 UFC win by KO; 0 wins by submission
• 1 Fight of the Night award
• Current layoff of 280 days is the longest of his UFC career
The Blueprint - Edgar vs. Maynard III
By Michael DiSanto October 05, 2011