After 13 bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Clay Guida’s nickname “The Carpenter” is more about his ability to outwork opponents in the Octagon than his job title prior to prizefighter. Posting an 8-5 record since arriving in the UFC in October 2006 (28-11 overall), the reputation Guida builds with each performance is one of a can’t-miss fighter addicted to a feverish pace.
The 29-year-old lightweight vies for a title shot this Saturday night in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale at The Pearl at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. Guida enters the bout a slight underdog looking to give the final WEC lightweight champion, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, a fight the Chicagoan promises will be one to be remembered.
That statement says everything audiences need to know about this fight: it’s two lightweights finding their prime ready to assert themselves in the most contender-rich division in mixed martial arts.
Here are five losses that defined Clay Guida leading up to his clash with Duke Roufus’ champion protégé.
1. Tyson Griffin (Split Decision) June 16, 2007, The Odyssey, Belfast Northern Ireland, UFC 72
Clay Guida alternated wins in his first two UFC outings before meeting Tyson Griffin, the latest UFC title picture prospect who was on the rebound from an exciting upset loss to a debuting Frankie Edgar.
The hunger for victory the combatants displayed—Guida was coming off a close decision loss to Din Thomas— in front of the lively Irish audience stole the show, perhaps saving the entire card. The Fight of the Night honored contest properly introduced UFC audiences to the Midwesterner with wild hair. Make no mistake: Guida’s reputation as a tireless fighter is rooted in Belfast.
2. Roger Huerta (Rear-Naked Choke) December 8, 2007, Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale
Clay Guida got back on the winning track after Tyson Griffin immediately, earning a split decision against American Top Team’s Marcus Aurelio and positioning himself across from Roger Huerta, an undefeated rising star in the Octagon.
A bloody, valiant battle pushed both past their limits, entering their Fight of the Year ballot close enough to year’s end that talk of the bout ushered in the New Year. Guida stunned Huerta and unleashed caveman-style ground and pound only to succumb to an emotion-charged rally that scored Huerta a late rear-naked choke.
Two dramatic decision losses six months apart solidified win or lose, fans demand to see what Clay Guida can do in 15 minutes in the Octagon.
3. Kenny Florian (Rear-Naked Choke) December 12, 2009, FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee, United States, UFC 107
Kenny Florian losing his second UFC lightweight title fight overshadowed his reputation as a finisher leading up his bout with Clay Guida. The Bostonian reminded observers that pushing the pace requires control of the fight. He stunned and submitted Guida via rear-naked choke mid-way through round two by comfortably pulling away with precision in all-facets of the fight.
The defeat has only reinforced the reason why Guida set out for Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico prior to the bout—to elevate his technique and strategy to match his intangibles like determination and heart. Since then, he’s finished three consecutive opponents for the first time in his UFC career, including his most recent victory, a second-round guillotine choke in January against former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi.
4. Gilbert Melendez (Split Decision) June 9, 2006, HP Pavilion, San Jose, California, United States, Strikeforce “Revenge”
Before Clay Guida was a UFC fan-favorite, he was the Strikeforce lightweight champion. The Chicagoan surprised San Jose, California’s Josh Thomson in his backyard the HP Pavilion by outwrestling to him a decision to become the inaugural titleholder in any weight class in the organization. He found himself facing off with world-ranked featherweight Gilbert Melendez for his first title defense.
The Cesar Gracie fighter was seeking challenges at lightweight after storming through opponents—finishing eight of nine—in the California and international circuits to earn his “El Nino” moniker.
A backbreaking five rounds later, the boxer-wrestler scrap concluded with the challenger capturing the Strikeforce 155-pound crown. Even though Guida relinquished the belt, the clash suggested this was the first of many memorable performances he would have at the championship level.
5. Diego Sanchez (Split Decision) June 20, 2009, Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale
Clay Guida is wired like a true fighter. When Diego Sanchez came out with high-pressure punches for the first minute of their headlining fight, Guida remain unperturbed by “The Nightmare.” Three minutes into round one, Sanchez landed a left high kick that floored Guida and would have knocked out most cold, but Guida was getting up before he finished hitting the ground.
There is a degree of toughness required to only go forward. It’s illustrated best in his typical bloody fashion against the fiery onslaught of Sanchez that Guida has one gear and it’s stuck on “Fight of the Year.”
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Follow him on twitter.com/acostaislegend