ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The full realization set in for Gray Maynard after 10 minutes in the Octagon with Clay Guida.
Guida was bouncing around with limitless energy as usual, but this time it was different. This time “The Carpenter” wasn’t bobbing and weaving and pressing forward. This time he was infinitely more cautious. If Maynard was going to win the fight he needed to chase Guida down and get his hands on him, which proved easier said than done.
“It took me two rounds to realize, ‘Okay, this guy’s going to do this the whole fight’,” Maynard said during the post-fight press conference.
So Maynard stalked Guida, at times literally running at him while throwing punches. Guida, understandably, wanted no part of Maynard’s powerful hands, but as the fight wore on he was doing more moving and less sticking. Maynard, in between imploring Guida to fight with some choice words and hand gestures, finally got his hands on his opponent with a fourth-round guillotine attempt and several solid knees from the clinch earlier in the third round. Guida landed only six percent of his strikes in the third round and Maynard built momentum from there to take the final three rounds and the fight, 48-47, 47-48, 48-47 for a split-decision victory in the main event of UFC on FX 4.
The card took place inside the the brand-new Revel Resort and Casino’s Ovation Hall. The Maynard-Guida bout headlined the four-fight main card, which was broadcast live on FX following a six-fight preliminary card on FUEL TV.
Frustration was the overarching theme for the battle between two of the top lightweights in the world. At one point, Maynard dropped his hands and walked straight at Guida with his chin out, finally prompting an exchange in the fourth round. The sold-out crowd was very much pro-Guida as he entered the Octagon, but switched their support to Maynard midway though, expressing the same frustration at Guida’s gameplan. It was that kind of fight. Bizarre, unexpected and polarizing.
“Personally, I don’t act like that,” Maynard said. “It’s a fight, I’m here to work so let’s work. I was pissed off. I’m a human too. I get mad.”
UFC President Dana White was even more to the point.
“That fight sucked,” White said as he helmed the post-fight press conference. “The style of Clay Guida is to move forward and that’s what’s made him a fan favorite.”
“First of all, I don’t think it was a split decision at all. I think Gray Maynard won that fight easily. Nobody can win or lose a fight when the other guy is running around in circles. Gray Maynard moved forward and pressed the action. He was literally full speed running and throwing punches. It’s crazy. It reminded me of the Kalib Starnes fight.”
Starnes infamously backpedaled and ran from Nate Quarry in an ugly, lopsided loss at UFC 83.
White added: “Because this was a main event I think it’s worse.”
Starnes was immediately cut for his antics, but White clarified there will be no such disciplinary action for Guida.
“Clay Guida is a warrior,” White said. “The guy has fought for us a zillion times and has put on some of the best fights in UFC history.”
“Tonight, I don’t know if he had a premonition he should fight like this or he got some bad advice. I’m not his trainer, I’m not his coach. But to make a guy like Clay Guida go out and fight like that? That was the game plan?”
Guida, who arrived late to the press conference – after White had left to catch a flight to Brazil for UFC 147 – with his left eye swollen shut, had a different view.
“I felt good about my performance,” Guida said. “I think sometimes the judges have a misconception of what mixed martial arts really is. I think mixed martial arts is the guy who gets hit the least is usually the victor. I think with a little more movement and landing a few more strikes I would’ve gotten the nod. He’s a big heavy puncher, man. He punches holes in walls for practice, and I didn’t want my head to be one of those.”
In the first two rounds Guida moved in and out of harm’s way while connecting on several jabs and leg kicks, including a jab that cut Maynard’s nose in the opening round. The second round saw more of the same. Maynard was loading up his big right hand but could only find air against the nimble Guida. Ten minutes in and it was clear Guida was ahead on the scorecards.
In the third round the fight began to swing Maynard’s way. He was pushing forward and engaging even more, but that didn’t entice Guida to stand and trade. Instead Guida backpedaled and circled even more, forcing Maynard to chase him around the cage. The boos rained down from the New Jersey crowd. Maynard took the bout’s first shot attempt that Guida was able to shrug off near the fence. His frustration mounting, Maynard threw his hands in the air urging Guida to engage, but to no avail. Maynard was able to trap Guida against the fence and land a pair of knees to the face as the round came to a close. This was the swing round. Judges Eric Colon and Suzanne Sanidad gave Maynard the third round, 10-9, while Jose Tabora had Guida up, 30-27, heading into round four.
Maynard landed two knees early in the fourth but still couldn’t find a home for his right hand. His stalking of Guida was more pronounced now, and after closing his opponent off and landing several knees in the clinch, Maynard dropped his hands and paced toward Guida with his chin out. Finally obliging, Guida hits Maynard with a combo and then shot in on a double-leg takedown. Maynard was ready and locked in a guillotine as they went to the ground. The choke looked secure, but Guida was able to break the hold by repeatedly slamming Maynard’s back into the mat while being choked.
In the fifth, Maynard still couldn’t get Guida to stay in the pocket and found his best success closing him off and initiating the clinch against the fence. Guida landed a right head kick, one-two combo followed by an uppercut early in the round, but Maynard was still unshaken. Guida continued to move around the cage and was finally issued a warning by referee Dan Miragliotta. Maynard got in on a single-leg takedown attempt with just under a minute left, but had no room against the fence to finish.
“The gameplan was to keep him guessing and get in and out,” Guida reiterated. “He was swinging for the fences but we weren’t there. He landed probably only three or four (significant strikes). I landed enough head kicks, four or five, probably, and landed some good jabs. I think I stopped all of his takedowns.”
Standing in the center of the Octagon while Bruce Buffer read the scores, Maynard could’t help thinking the decision could go Guida’s way.
“There’s people out there that think that’s good,” said Maynard about Guida’s strategy. “It’s not even moving, it’s moving to the other end of the cage. A couple of steps I understand. You’re still in the pocket and still there able to hit me. But it’s still a fight. You can’t just go from one end of the cage back to the other end. You have to give me a chance too.”
The momentary bad blood present during and shortly after their 25-minute fight dissipated in the press conference. Guida praised Maynard as “an athlete and a wrestler he’s always looked up to”. Maynard seemed disappointed his emotions got the best of him.
“It was a frustrating fight, you saw it in my face,” he said. “I don’t act like that. My emotions came out. It’s nothing personal. It’s a fight. It got heated. He’s a cool guy.”
Whom Guida fights after this is anybody’s guess. As for Maynard, he wants the belt, and wouldn’t mind another tilt with a familiar foe.
“Of course I’m trying to go for the belt again, and I think the (Frankie) Edgar fight, that’s a good fight. Part 4.”