A fight works best when it settles unknowns between two interesting, well-matched combatants. It isn't just that styles make fights, although that's true. It's also about what their fight says about them and what the outcome resolves. In the main event of Friday's event, one fighter (Gray Maynard) returns to action after devastating loss, personal evolution and sojourn. He does so with renewed focus, training partners and life surroundings. Another (Clay Guida) tries to pick up where his last failed push to earn a title shot left off. Guida's a known commodity, but one who is almost exceedingly difficult for any fighter to handle.
Victory here could mean title shots, elite contender status or something of considerable career merit. Who will emergere as the potentially top lightweight contender? I try to answer that question and more with my predictions below.
I originally felt like Guida had a fighting chance if the fight went late and to be sure, the longer it goes the more it favors him. Maynard likes a more thoughtful pace and to be selective about his attacks. He won't get that chance against Guida and will have to call on physical reserves to stay strong late. Now I'm not so sure about that entire idea. Maynard's a tough fight for Guida anyway and now the Michigan State alumnus is training with the Marinovich brothers. For all the hoopla surrounding them, I'm a big believer in their ability to maximize a fighter's physical capabilities. This fight might be closer late, but I don't see Guida being able to do enough to take a decision. And the newfound Maynard with his time off and sojourn around the MMA world promises to be a formidable challenge.
This is one of those fights whose existence I don't understand. I can't recall anyone suggesting this was a trilogy that had to happen. Be that as it may, I like Stout here. Fisher made it close the first time and won handily the second, but since then has grown shopworn. I'm not suggesting he can't fight anymore, but his bruising style and pocket challenges have been hard on him, physically and mentally. Stout's still got a sturdy chin, good combination striking and the ability to physically pressure Fisher. That should be enough for a decision.
Ultimately, Pearson's the more physical fighter of the two, but Swanson might be a touch more well-rounded. Which is the first to give? I can see Pearson busting Swanson up as he overcommits striking and gets out of position. But I can see Pearson also making tactical errors fending off takedowns as Swanson varies his offense. I'm not a big believer in either guy's chances here, but Swanson's capacity to score points and damage in multiple dimensions of the game is enough for me.
Waldburger's a tricky grappler, but so is Ebersole. Yet, Ebersole is more than just that. In terms of pure talent, Waldburger might have more of it, but Ebersole's veteran experience is a huge help here. The reason why is he's seen or been in countless grappling challenges of the sort Waldburger is likely to show. And given Ebersole's instincts to be craftylcombined with Waldburger's tendency to be too aggressive, it's got all the makings of Ebersole winning. He'll weather an early storm and win by decision or stoppage late.