I know what you’re thinking… “where are all the fight previews for this Saturday’s UFC event?” I’ve been unmotivated to write about these fights because there are only two fights on the entire card in which both competitors have data up on Fight Metric. Add in that this is Thanksgiving week and it made for a situation where it simply wasn’t worth it to write at length about each fight. However, the main event between Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard deserves coverage, and I will provide it here.
In recent fights I’ve been frustrated by Maynard seemingly abandoning his takedown game. Maynard built an undefeated record in the UFC on the strength of his wrestling, but since his draw against Frankie Edgar at UFC 125, he seems to have fallen in love with the striking game.
Maynard’s first 10 UFC fights: 3.31 takedowns/15 minutes
Maynard’s last 3 UFC fights: 0.33 takedowns/15 minutes
In fairness, Maynard did attempt to take Clay Guida down nine times and was only successful once. However, in Maynard’s last fight against T.J. Grant, he clearly decided to test himself in a striking battle… and paid dearly for it. In just two minutes and seven seconds Grant landed 26 significant strikes, three knockdowns, and finished Maynard by KO. It’s a fight that should serve as a repudiation of the idea that Maynard can compete with the best lightweights in the UFC standing up.
Maynard shouldn’t have needed the Grant fight to figure that out. Including that fight, Maynard has now landed fewer significant strikes than his opponent in five out of seven fights. In the two fights Maynard landed more strikes, he out-pointed Clay Guida 49-45 and Kenny Florian 15-14. Overall, Maynard has been out-struck 351-254 in those seven fights despite landing more takedowns than his opponents.
With all of that said, I think Maynard is the better overall fighter than Nate Diaz because he’s so much better at the takedown game. Maynard has a 31-6 edge in takedowns over his UFC opponents while Diaz is down 15-45 in that category. That’s why Maynard almost always wins in fights that go the distance while Diaz often loses.
When Maynard uses his takedowns he’s very difficult to beat because he’s developed strong submission defense. Despite landing 31 takedowns Maynard has only had four submissions attempted against him. Generally speaking, Maynard is good at getting his opponent to the ground and better at maintaining top position. In other words, he’s a very good blanket.
Still, it’s hard to imagine Maynard successfully blanketing Diaz, who is so active with his guard game that he’s won multiple fights by submission from his back. He even gave Dong Hyun Kim fits, and Kim is a very similar fighter to Maynard, just bigger. If Kim was only barely able to escape with a victory in that fight, it’s hard to see Maynard having success with a similar game plan.
Based on Maynard’s recent history of choosing to strike as well as his decision to strike against Diaz in their match at UFC Fight Night 20, I have to predict that Maynard will choose to stand and strike again in their third match. Maynard was able to defeat Diaz by split decision at UFC Fight Night 20 but only after being out-struck 70-41. Diaz landed more strikes than Maynard overall and landed more strikes in all three rounds. The judges saw the fight for Maynard anyway due to what I imagine was the perception that Maynard was landing harder strikes that were more likely to finish the fight.
If Maynard returns to his wrestling roots and puts Diaz on his back, I can see him avoiding submissions and grinding out a victory in the style of fight the Diaz brothers have such a disgust for. Unfortunately for Maynard, I have no faith in him to follow a smart game plan at this point in his career. I have to assume Maynard will choose to strike against Diaz again, and in that kind of fight I have to favor Diaz.
Pick: Nate Diaz by submission (likely after hurting Maynard with strikes)
As for the other fights on the card, I’m simply going to side with the betting public for the rest of them. It’s too late for me to do exhaustive tape study for the fights so I’m just going to default to the betting favorites. I’ll be back next week for UFC Fight Night featuring Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Mark Hunt. See you then.