The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale: Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-2-1-1, 9-2-1-1 UFC) vs. Nate Diaz (16-9, 11-7 UFC), at the TUF 18 Finale
Saturday November 30th, 2013, the 18th season of “TUF” will have it’s finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Vegas. It was over 6 years ago that the 5th season of TUF produced great entertainment and great talent. Most notable among that talent are the 2 men headlining on the 30th. Maynard and Diaz combined have a UFC winning percentage of about 65%, 14 post fight bonuses, and 3 title fights, not too shabby. These 2 men are also both 1-2 in their last 3 and both got blown out in their last fights. Needless to say they both need a win here.
Gray is another guy who has had almost his entire pro MMA career within the UFC. He was a known prospect even coming into his stint on TUF 5 because of his NCAA wrestling pedigree (3X All American). Gray knocked himself silly in his official UFC debut by slamming Rob Emerson to the mat and hitting his head but after this fight Gray was off and running, winning 8 in a row leading up to his rematch and title shot against Frankie Edgar. After two amazing, brutal, fights Gray found himself KO’d for the first time and without the belt. This fight against Nate will be a good indicator of how much fight is left in The Bully. Let’s take a look at Gray’s skills:
- Obviously he has stellar wrestling, both in and out of MMA. Many wrestlers have had trouble keeping their wrestling effective in MMA; Gray is not one of them. According to Fightmetric.com Gray has only been taken down 4 times in his UFC career and has some of the best takedown defense in UFC history.
- Heavy hands; having such good wrestling has allowed Gray to put in a lot of work on his boxing. Despite only notching one knockout during his UFC career Gray’s power has also been highly visible in the 2nd and 3rd fights with Edgar, his fight with Jim Miller, Roger Huerta, and Dennis Siver. Not only does he hit hard on the feet and on the floor, but he is also not an easy target himself with some of the best striking defense in the UFC.
- Strength and size, Gray is also physically a very strong individual. He is quite big for lightweight and having wrestled his whole life means he can throw round other men with ease and he is an expert weight cutter. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
Throughout Maynard’s career there have also been areas where he has fallen short, and they are:
- Strategy; more than once a strategic error has cost Gray greatly. In his title fights with Edgar, Gray seemed unsure as to when to turn it up, when to go all out for the kill, and when to pace himself. He had the champion hurt badly in both encounters and aside from Frankie Edgar being possibly the toughest human being on earth, you have to wonder if Gray would’ve got the win had he chosen the right strategy. It’s possible he would still be champion if he had.
- Another area in which Gray could benefit from some improvement is killer instinct. Not only should he have finished Edgar at least once, but he also was dishing out some serious violence on guys like Jim Miller and Roger Huerta. Now obviously at this level everyone is tough but when you are fully in control of a fight and fail to finish almost every time, it is cause for concern.
StocktonCalifornia’s second most famous MMA star and winner of TUF season 5 Nate Diaz, like Maynard, was impressive and often victorious as he began his UFC tenure. He came into TUF having already had 7 pro MMA fights a good amount of buzz. After Nate defeated Manny Gamburyan by injury TKO for the TUF 5 title he was fighting again in the UFC 3 months later and continued winning. Nowadays Nate has become known for his volume approach to fighting and prefers to use more endurance than power but back in 2007-08 Nate was more efficient. He would often allow his opponent to start strong until Nate had him figured out and would usually execute a fight ending sequence shortly after. He didn’t see the 3rd round of a UFC fight until his 5th fight in the UFC. Nate is quite nice with the following:
- The calling card of both Diaz brothers is, and always has been, cardiovascular conditioning. Nate can put on a pace that many fighters cannot match and he will often execute his offense at a relatively low intensity but a very high frequency and outworks guys until they break. Nate’s spot on fightmetric’s top 10 of all time list in significant strikes landed, total strikes landed, and submissions attempted is evidence of that.
- Nate is also a full blown double threat, employing top notch boxing and BJJ. His confidence in his guard allows him to open up on the feet with little fear of being taken down and his crafty submission game means many guys who can take him down choose not to and are forced to deal with his boxing.
- Nate is also a proven finisher, having finished the fight in 14 out of 16 wins. He doesn’t like to leave things in the hands of the judges and often he doesn’t.
As effective a finisher that Nate is, he does have some distinct and persistent weaknesses that have been a problem for him:
- One area where Nate can certainly improve is his wrestling. Having a crafty guard and throwing nice judo trips here and there is not an excuse for getting outwrestled in almost every loss on your record. Quite a few wrestling oriented fighters have turned their fights with Nate into wrestling matches, gaining and maintaining top position and working enough to not get stood up or submitted. Nate has gone on record many times to voice his displeasure with this tactic but this is the big leagues, you better know how to get off bottom if you can finish from there.
- Another area which has been a problem for Nate is size. His ideal fighting weight is somewhere between 155 and 170 and he is somewhat stuck in the middle. At 155 he endures a tough weight cut that drains him and at 170 he is not big enough and definitely not strong enough.
- Attitude is another sometimes weakness for Nate. Now I know people love him for this very reason but his resistance to change and continued aversion to wrestling means he has lost a few fights he probably could have won had he learned how to wrestle better and maybe added a powerlifting regimen to his training.
As I mentioned above this fight should be a good indicator for where both guys are at and how much they have left to give this sport. Gray is older but has fewer losses and has not been fighting as long. And neither guy has taken as much abuse as many other fighters so there is no reason either guy should be shot at this point. I’m gona go with the Bully in this fight. Nate is not getting any younger and it’s not going to get any easier to make 155 while Gray has done it many times without a problem. Look for Gray to come out more aggressively then he did in their last fight and look to make a statement early. A finish will be tough for Gray but he should be able to use his wrestling and boxing to cruise to a decision victory in their unofficial rubber match.