The stage is set for reigning UFC lightweight champion Frankie “The Answer” Edgar (13-1-1) to finally get closure in his trilogy against Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0-1 with one no contest). The fight takes place at UFC 136 on Oct. 6, 2011 at Houston's Toyota Centre.
Their initial meeting occurred in the rarefied mile-high air of Broomfield, Colorado. In front of 6,742 fans at the Broomfield Event Center, Gray handed Frankie his first and only loss via a unanimous 30-27 on all three judges’ cards. Maynard simply out-wrestled and out-muscled the smaller Edgar.
A no-nonsense fighter, Frankie never made any excuses for that fight, so I am going to make some for him—he didn’t prepare properly for that fight. First off, the fight took place ten days before Edgar’s wedding. How can one focus on a fight when a life-changing commitment like marriage is looming? Do you have any idea how demanding it can be to marry a girl from Jersey? How can a fighter not be distracted from his training when tablecloths, seating arrangements and flowers need to be decided upon? Manicotti or lasagna?
Furthermore, the contest took place at high altitude (the fight not the wedding!) and Frankie evidently didn’t have two-weeks to spend in Colorado to acclimate properly.
After the disappointing loss, Frankie has gone on to beat Hermes Franca, Matt Veach, former UFC lightweight title-holder Sean Sherk and former UFC lightweight champion and UFC welterweight champion B.J. Penn, twice. Edgar won the UFC lightweight title via unanimous decision against B.J. in their first fight and successfully defended the title by beating Penn even more convincingly in their second meeting. Frankie beat the legend not once but twice, something no other fighter except Georges St-Pierre has done.
At UFC 125 on Jan. 1, 2011 in Las Vegas, Edgar met Maynard for the second time. The UFC lightweight championship belt was at stake as Frankie looked to avenge his only loss in the octagon. It wasn’t going to happen the way anyone imagined.
In a ferocious first round Maynard caught Edgar with a perfectly timed left hook that sent Edgar backwards and somersaulting across the ring in miraculous attempt to avoid being finished. In spite of being hit by 25 solid shots according to FightMetric, and spending the majority of the round a hair’s breadth away from being KO’ed—on sheer heart and instinct Frankie survived.
In the second round Maynard was gassed from an adrenaline dump in throwing so many shots in the first round, thus giving the amazingly recovered Edgar a chance to make a comeback. In an incredible display of conditioning and willpower, Frankie came back to win all four remaining rounds on a least two judges’ scorecards, making the fight a draw.
Both fighters were disappointed by the outcome and newly refocused on resolving the issue of who will ultimately hold the Championship belt.
Injuries to both fighters saw the “three-peat” at UFC 128 in May, get postponed. Since then, both men have had plenty of time to train, strategize and mentally condition themselves for a war.
Through two fights, both warriors have seen all of what the other has. Even though Edgar is the more effective striker as evidenced in his out-boxing and out-classing B.J. Penn over ten rounds, Maynard landed the more telling blows. But, can Gray do it again after Edgar’s camp has had so much time to make adjustments? Maynard may have the edge in size and strength, but the margin is slim. Frankie is more agile, faster and has arguably better Jiu Jitsu.
At UFC 136, it’s going to come down to who wants it most. I predict Frankie Edgar submits Gray Maynard in Round 3 with a rear naked choke to retain his lightweight title and in doing so, finally puts “The Bully” behind him.