In an event billed as “Resolution,” a definitive conclusion at the evening’s apex was not to be had.
The headliner, a rematch between defending UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard, ended in a split draw after a thrilling five round affair.
It was just the second UFC title fight in history to end in a draw (unless you count the UFC 5 superfight championship between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock).
The UFC 41 lightweight championship between B. J. Penn and Caol Uno is the only modern era title fight to share the same fate as Edgar/Maynard.
In this particular instance, however, the outcome essentially stalled the division as the title remained vacant for over three and a half years thereafter.
On the other hand, Edgar/Maynard opened up a wealth of possibilities to discuss and treated viewers to one of the more thrilling title fights (and draws) in history.
Those “possibilities” centered squarely around WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, who happened to be cageside at the MGM Grand Garden Arena taking in the action with a “guaranteed title shot card” in his back pocket.
Unbeknownst to him, it was not a trump card in the event of a logjam. More on this in a bit.
Back to the nuts and bolts of Edgar/Maynard – did I mention it was downright remarkable?
The Xtreme Couture-product Maynard stormed out of the gate in the first stanza dropping Edgar with a clean left hook that put the champion down and into a backwards somersault.
Maynard rightfully chased and turned up the heat, landing punches in bunches on a stunned champion trying to regain his wits.
Edgar worked his way back to his feet and was dropped again with an uppercut. Maynard continued to pound away, but could not finish off his battered opponent.
Somehow Edgar was up again after a scramble and managed to survive the onslaught.
The champion was bloodied, dazed, and in the fight of his life.
How Edgar regained his composure after the initial beating he sustained in the first round I will never know.
He must possess some kind of unique mixture of psychological fortitude and a high physiological damage threshold that ordinary people cannot comprehend and his contemporaries wish they had.
The momentum swung in a hurry. In the second round Edgar appeared as the fresher combatant as Maynard had done a fantastic job of depleting his gas tank trying to close out the fight in the first five minutes.
The remaining rounds came and went and it was a back-and-forth battle of tempered skill sets.
A nip/tuck decision was forthcoming and everyone on the planet with a rudimentary understanding of the MMA scoring system saw it coming a mile away.
The scorecards were as follows: 48-46 Frankie Edgar for Glenn Trowbridge, 48-46 Gray Maynard for Marcos Rosales, and a 47-47 draw for Patricia Morse-Jarman.
Both fighters were visibly upset with the outcome and understandably so.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I scored the bout 48-46 for Maynard (10-7, 9-10, 10-9, 9-10, 10-10).
The points of contention seem to center around rounds one, three, and five.
The vast majority of media outlets and fans scored round one 10-8, while a minority (including myself) scored it 10-7.
If it were not a 10-7 round I would hate to see what one would look like. It certainly met the criteria established by the unified rules in my view.
Round three is all over the map as it was an extremely competitive round. I’ve seen it scored 10-10, 10-9 Maynard, or 10-9 Edgar.
Round five there is also a small dilemma between 10-10 and 10-9 Edgar.
Nevertheless, I slept well understanding how and why these rounds may have been perceived differently.
I was simply thankful as a fan of the sport to be treated to one of the best title fights we have ever seen in the UFC.
The draw did not bother me one bit.
Frankly, it was a rather righteous outcome given the effort and performance put forth by both men. Neither deserved to lose the fight.
Immediately following the event the UFC stated the aforementioned Anthony Pettis would get the next shot against Edgar.
Less than an hour later after a bit more thought they reneged and said Edgar/Maynard 3 would indeed be forthcoming.
The UFC got it right (eventually).
The Edgar/Maynard saga needs to be capitalized on immediately. The world needs closure.
For the UFC, they just received a late Christmas gift in the form of another headlining fight in the near future they didn’t know they were going to have the luxury of having.
They’re playing with much needed house money as champions Jose Aldo and Cain Velasquez occupy the proverbial “shelf” with injuries.
The buzz for Pettis as a challenger will always be there. It can wait.
Neither his impressive highlight reel nor his good looks are going anywhere anytime soon.
Pettis vs. the Edgar/Maynard winner is a fight that can be marketed and made anytime, anywhere. “No worries,” as my one Australian friend would say.
It is certainly a disappointing circumstance for Pettis to hear, “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200,” but this is the fight game.
The good news is there is always a bright side.
His temporary hiatus from the octagon will allow him to make continued gainful improvements in training under Duke Roufus and company in Milwaukee.
In his last two bouts against Shane Roller and Ben Henderson we have seen him make huge strides both in his defensive wrestling and in the cardio department.
Who knows what kind of polished product Pettis will be towards the second half of 2011?
Probably a pretty scary one.
In the meantime, bring on round nine of Edgar/Maynard.
I’ll bring the popcorn. You bring the Four Loco.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.