Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard will do it one more time at UFC 136. (Photo courtesy of jeffjoslinmma.com)
Frankie Edgar will defend his lightweight title for the second straight time against boorish challenger Gray Maynard, one of the strongest men in the division and the man who accounts for both blemishes on Edgar’s otherwise perfect ledger.
Their second encounter happened on the first day of 2011, and still stands as the fight of the year. Edgar came roaring back after being pasted for one of the most brutal rounds in MMA history, earning a split draw and keeping his belt. Dana White immediately decided the two would meet again, and the fight has been 10 months in the making due to various injuries and hurdles.
Maynard will look to do what he did to Edgar the first time around—batter and bully him. Only he’ll look for more controlled aggression this time, perhaps attacking in a more measured fashion and looking for the kill, should it present itself instead of trying to force it. This was the criticism made by many after the last meeting, as he clearly tired when he couldn’t finish Edgar during that insane first round (not my criticism personally, as I would argue that 99% of fights where an opponent looks as Edgar did in that round end up finished, and Maynard wasn’t wrong in going for it. It’s more a testament to Edgar’s heart than it is to Maynard’s error).
It’s as close a fight as there is in the UFC, as both are great wrestlers with excellent—albeit very different—boxing, and then they clash on peripherals. Where Maynard is big and strong, Edgar is small and fast. Gray’s ground-and-pound and positional control on the ground is better, while Frankie has a better submission game. Looking at it on paper, it’s as perfect a matchup as you can get.
It’s funny, because no one was excited at the prospect of Edgar-Maynard II on New Year’s Day. Now, it’s as anticipated as any fight on the calendar. What a difference a year can make.
For what it’s worth, I’ll take Frankie Edgar in a surprisingly one-sided affair. If you take away that first round in the last meeting, he won three or four out of five rounds depending on the scorecard you’re looking at.
I’m looking for him to do the same here, winning a decision with his speed and takedown defense, accented with the occasional takedown of his own to score points.