We know a lot and a little about Gray Maynard.
We know he’s one of the best lightweights in the world—a gritty wrestler who has power in his hands and the sheer physicality that few men can match at 155 pounds.
We know he’s a guy that sometimes makes it hard to root for him—be it because of posturing outside of the cage or uninteresting performances inside of it.
We know he thinks he should be lightweight champion, or at least he thought he should have been until Frankie Edgar knocked him senseless in their third meeting.
Directly related to that, we know he just can’t find a way to beat Frankie Edgar.
That seems like a lot, but in actuality it really isn’t that much. At least it isn’t that much in a sport that is perhaps more results-driven than any in the world—a sport that can see you become pretty irrelevant pretty quickly if you can’t win a title after two chances in one calendar year.
Going into UFC on FX 4, where he’ll headline against the energetic Clay Guida, that seems to be the only question that matters anymore: will Gray Maynard ever be champion?
It’s easy to argue that he could be. He’s undeniably in the top three at his weight, has very nearly taken the title on two separate occasions and his nemesis from New Jersey no longer has the title that he so hungrily covets (though that could change next month).
Then again, it’s easy to argue that his window has closed, too.
He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has had his chances. He’s only going to see big names and tough guys for the rest of his career, increasing the chances he could fall out of contention. He’s gone through personal and team-based upheaval since his last fight with Edgar, and that may plague him.
There are arguments both ways, and it isn’t hard to make one side particularly convincing. Friday night will go a long way toward uncovering what Maynard’s chances are of becoming champion.
Guida is a tireless, frustrating foe in the same vein of Edgar.
Maynard is coming off his first pro loss and first ever knockout, which are two things that often change the way a fighter approaches the game. He also has to know that with names like Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone and Gilbert Melendez all floating around out there, it won’t take much for him to be a forgotten former challenger instead of a still-important contender.
To answer the question of "will" he be a champion may be too hard to do before seeing him in action on FX. "Can" he is probably more appropriate.
Given the tools he has at his disposal, the answer there is a resounding yes if things can break his way a little.
Will he? Ask again after he goes a few rounds with Clay Guida. The answer might reveal itself quicker than you’d realize.