On April 2nd, 2008, at UFC Fight Night 13, 8-0 Frank Edgar took on 4-0 Gray Maynard in what appeared to be a relatively unremarkable UFC lightweight fight. Edgar was a respected fighter, but not somebody whose name was constantly being brought up for mentions of being a future champion. Maynard was a respected fighter as well, but since he was just 4-0, he was viewed as more of a prospect than an actual top-level fighter.
Maynard beat Edgar by unanimous decision in that fight, despite not landing very many strikes. Instead, it was Maynard landing nine takedowns that earned him the decision, as Edgar spent a good deal of the fight scrambling to get back to his feet, as opposed to striking and scoring points against Maynard. It was the kind of fight that left me grumbling about wrestlers in the UFC, and how fights were won based on position instead of actual fighting.
Edgar bounced back from that defeat and started winning consistently again. Maynard kept winning too, but generally in less impressive fashion. The result was that, eventually, the UFC was compelled to give Edgar an opportunity to fight B.J. Penn for the title. We know what happened next: Edgar scored two big upsets in a row over Penn, and Maynard defeated Kenny Florian at UFC 118 to earn the right to challenge Edgar for the title, as the only man ever to beat him. (I will now be very shameless in saying that SILVA would have picked Edgar to beat Penn in both fights.)
In the first round of their title fight at UFC 125, Maynard showed the world how he was the anti-Edgar; the man with more powerful striking and wrestling. Maynard clobbered Edgar in that round, sending him reeling, wobbled, and hurt, as he knocked Edgar down multiple times. But there’s one thing Maynard didn’t do: he didn’t finish Edgar.
And then, in the following rounds, Edgar came back, using superior conditioning and speed to out-point Maynard and land a few takedowns of his own. The fight went to a decision, where the judges understandably ruled the fight a draw. So now, Edgar and Maynard will battle again, but this time, public opinion seems to be on the side of Edgar, who showed himself able to defend Maynard’s takedowns and out-strike him throughout a sizable portion of their title fight back on New Year’s Day.
Despite Maynard’s striking success in the first round of that fight, I feel that Edgar is the better striker while Maynard is the better wrestler. This makes sense: Maynard is the bigger, stronger man, but he’s never had great striking technique, while Edgar has outstanding footwork and great boxing skills. My feeling is that, as long as this fight is standing, it’s better for Edgar. The onus is on Maynard to take him down.
There are two big questions for me. The first is: can Maynard take Edgar down the same way he did back in 2008? If Maynard is able to physically dominate the same way he did back then, it should make for a relatively dull fight, but at the same time, it will make Edgar’s life very difficult, as he focuses his energy on trying to get to his feet, instead of actually striking Maynard.
The second question is: can Maynard maintain a good pace throughout a five-round fight? Part of Edgar’s advantage in being the smaller man is that he doesn’t have to cut a significant amount of weight, and he seems to have better conditioning as a result. It’s quite possible that Maynard is better suited for a three-round fight, and Edgar is better suited for a five-round fight.
SILVA PREDICTION: GRAY MAYNARD (54.05) OVER FRANK EDGAR (50.23)
SILVA favors Maynard for a very simple reason: Maynard is 1-0-1 against Edgar. If it was Edgar who had defeated Maynard previously, then Edgar’s SILVA score would be 55.25, whereas Maynard’s would be 46.70. It stands to reason that this is an extremely close matchup, a very difficult fight to call, and that a coin flip is probably as good at deciding a winner as any fancy mathematical prediction/rating system.
Where I’ll go along with SILVA is that Maynard seems to have a slightly higher potential to finish the fight than Edgar. Both men usually go to decision, but while Maynard wins by decision more frequently than Edgar does, in this particular matchup, I don’t think either guy is getting submitted, and I think Maynard is more likely to win by KO/TKO. I’ll take Maynard to win because of this slightest of edges, but if you think Edgar is going to win, I can’t blame you at all. This fight is just that close.