TJ Grant vs. Gray Maynard: Head-to-Toe Breakdown
It will also mark the return of lightweight contender Gray Maynard to the UFC Octagon since he defeated Clay Guida in the main event of UFC on FX 4 last June. He is set to face a recent newcomer to the UFC Top 10 in Canadian TJ Grant on the preliminary portion of the May 25 Las Vegas fight card.
Maynard is still right in the mix for title contention, and Grant has cracked the Top 10 for the first time in his career. This fight has major implications for the future lightweight division.
Here is a head-to-toe breakdown.
Maynard packs some very serious power in his hands and throws with the sole purpose of taking his opponent out in a hurry. Although he is a wrestler by base with only two knockout wins in his career, his striking power stacks up with many of the division's best, but it is strictly resigned to his hands.
Few should doubt the improvement that Grant's striking has shown in his recent fights, as both his recent wins have come as a direct result of his striking prowess. Grant dismantled Evan Dunham on the feet and knocked out Matt Wiman with a standing elbow strike. Grant mixes it up with every weapon he has in the arsenal, and that gives him an edge in this department.
Wrestling has always been the major strength of Maynard's game, and he remains one of the best wrestlers in the entire UFC. His core strength and technical skill give him a leg up on any lightweight looking to lock horns in tight with him. He can always fall back to his wrestling to dictate where the fight goes against most at 155.
Grant started off in this game training strictly in jiu-jitsu, and that is his grappling base. Although he has trained in wrestling for his entire life and continues to do so every day in training, Grant has no formal competitive wrestling in his background and is nowhere near the level of Maynard.
Grappling and Submissions
Maynard has a decisive edge in wrestling and may be able to take this fight down whenever he wants to against Grant. The question is, will he be safe when it goes there?
Maynard has victories over some elite-level grapplers, such as Nate Diaz and Kenny Florian, and has never been submitted or dominated in that aspect of the game. He won't get tapped out.
Grant is the better submission fighter of the two and will be looking for an opening the second this fight hits the mat. He is as big as Maynard, but he won't be quite as strong and this will hurt him in any attempt to grab a limb or get his back throughout the fight. Grant will be all offense and Maynard all defense in this aspect of the game.
Intangibles: What's on the Line?
There are two major intangibles that may come in to this fight, and they are both in TJ Grant's favor.
The first one is cage rust, as Maynard has not fought since late June of last year, and even that fight was not as busy as he would have liked it to be. Maynard has only fought once in the last 18 months.
Nine months between fights is a significant break for anyone, and Maynard may be slow out of the gate. Grant has fought three times in that span and may be quicker to the punch.
The other intangible is the motivation factor, and these two men are in very different spots at this point in their careers.
Maynard is an established star who has been on the cusp of a UFC title recently and is looking to get back to his past glory in the division.
Grant is no spring chicken, and he is the closest he has ever been to UFC title contention. He is hungry to get to where Maynard has already been. It is always easier to be the hunter instead of the hunted at the highest level of the game.
Grant will be as ready as he has ever been for this opportunity against Maynard, but the question is: Does Maynard feel the same about Grant?
All things being equal—and it is a very close fight to call—Maynard is the better all-out fighter and has faced much better competition recently in his career. This is a big step up for Grant, and it is unknown whether wins over Evan Dunham and Matt Wiman warrant contender consideration.
I just think Grant is on a mission right now, and he has been preparing for this fight for his entire life. Maynard has been recovering from injury, and I have a sneaking suspicion that he might take this return fight a little too lightly.
Prediction: Grant wins via unanimous decision.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca's UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.