UFC 125 is headlined by the first World Lightweight Title Fight to not feature BJ Penn since Summer 2007 and only the third such matchup in the championship’s near decade long existence. Penn’s nemesis Frankie Edgar (13-1; 2KOs, 3SUBs) tries to build on his two victories against the longstanding divisional kingpin by defeating the only man to beat him, TUF7 semi-finalist Gray Maynard (10-0-1NC; 2KOs).
In many ways Edgar and Maynard are strikingly similar. Both are former college wrestlers who have attracted criticism for supposedly having a ‘boring’ style. This criticism obscures the progress both have made in complimenting their natural wrestling game with solid boxing. While Maynard boxes like many wrestlers do, focusing on head hunting with the big right hand Edgar has developed an advanced out-fighter style that was good enough to confound a superb MMA boxer in Penn.
What both lack is the finishing skills that one would expect of world class fighters as between them thirteen of their seventeen UFC fights have gone the distance. I spoke to Maynard last autumn about this failure to finish fights, and he was quick to make clear that it was due to the quality of competition in the lightweight division, pointing out that he “doesn’t see too many people knocking our tapping out” the fighters he has despatched in his march through the division. The same is true of Frankie Edgar, and whatever the rights or wrongs of their run of decision victories no one can dispute that between them they have defeated virtually all the top contenders in the lightweight division.
When they last met, Gray Maynard secured a shutout points victory. Will the result be the same on January 1st? Our staff members give their picks:
Chris’s Pick: Here’s the dilemma: Every bit of analytical power my holiday ravaged brain can muster is telling me that this is going to be Gray Maynard’s night. Beyond his size and strength advantage he has, always but especially as of late, shown a dominating cage control that seems to be impenetrable. He’s won 8 fights in a row with the last 7 of those coming via decision. Even Kenny Florian looked flaccid and useless against it. BUT. . .to pick Maynard means that I have to pick against Frankie Edgar, currently #4 on my pound for pound list and a man who has turned in two straight victories over BJ Penn. He’s certainly no joke, able to execute flawless gameplans or just gun it full speed ahead and put on a wrestling clinic. Definitely the must see fight during this crowded New Year’s weekend it would probably be the most exciting on most UFC cards, too bad for them that they are headlining a stacked card with multiple bouts capable of bringing the house down. I’m going to stick with my instinct and say that Maynard’s ability to break down opponents with his overgrown Lightweight physique will be the difference and allow him to score a late round knockout (of Edgar, just to be clear).
Pick: Maynard via 5th Round TKO
Will’s Pick: The problem for Frankie Edgar is that his illusive out-fighting style that proved so effective against the puncher BJ Penn is going to be ineffective against the swarmer Gray Maynard. While Penn was largely content to give Edgar the space and time he needed to work the jab from the outside, Maynard will be constantly looking to close the distance and put Edgar under pressure. Edgar does not have the power to make Maynard pay on the inside nor does he have the defensive wrestling to reliably stuff the takedowns of Maynard. I see Maynard pushing the action both with his boxing and his wrestling, securing another comfortable points victory over Edgar.
Pick: Gray Maynard by decision
Tags: Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 125, ufc lightweight division