Gray Maynard finds himself in a strange place in the UFC's lightweight division.
The 2011 year was a banner one for Maynard. He challenged for the lightweight championship in two classic battles with former champion Frankie Edgar. But the results of those two fights—a draw in the first bout and a loss by TKO in the second—virtually ensure that Maynard will need to string together some impressive wins in order to get back in title contention.
The fact that Benson Henderson is now the champion will greatly help Maynard. As long as Edgar held that belt, Maynard likely wasn't getting another crack at gold. Edgar will get a rematch with Henderson this summer, and Maynard told Heavy.com's Duane Finley that he wants to settle the score with Edgar once and for all:
“The title has always been the goal. I would love to have the belt and somewhere along the line, get another fight with Edgar. We are 1-1-1 and we need to settle it once and for all. It has to happen eventually, and after that fight we can both be done. We can walk away knowing it’s over and that we gave MMA fans some great fights to look back on.”
But first, Maynard has a big June fight coming up with Clay Guida, in the main event of UFC on FX 4 in Atlantic City. Maynard was strongly considered as an opponent for Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, but the UFC changed their minds.
Guida represents a chance for Maynard to make a big statement against a tough competitor who presents many of the same challenges that "The Bully" does for his own opponents:
“Since it has been out there, I’ve pretty much been gearing up for him for a while now. Guida has good takedowns, but I feel that is my area and what he lacks as a true athlete he makes up for in heart and toughness. Clay is well known for his cardio, but he also likes to mix it up and throw hands. He has a good chin, great heart and it’s a fun fight.
A Maynard win over Guida likely won't earn him an immediate title shot. But it'll put him back "in the mix," as Dana White is so very fond of saying, and that's right where Maynard wants to be.