The showcase match at UFC on FX 4 will effectively serve to eliminate someone from the immediate UFC lightweight title picture. Both Gray Maynard and Clay Guida are coming off losses, putting a second straight defeat in someone's near future. But even the winner will not be promised anything other than standing his ground in the division. That's because Gray Maynard has already had his chances, two of them, in fact, which he came oh-so-close to capitalizing on. If Frankie Edgar beats Ben Henderson later this summer, what Maynard does on Friday night might not even matter, because the UFC isn't quite ready for another Edgar-Maynard rematch.
The same could be said for Guida if Henderson wins. The two fought last November and even if he upsets Maynard, he won't be in position for a rematch so quickly. Regardless of what happens, the two both have Nate Diaz standing ahead of them in line. In other words, the setup for Maynard-Guida is awkward, with the consequences of a loss likely outweighing the benefits of a win.
Maynard (10-1-1, 1 no contest) is considered to be the favorite in the fight, and a sizable one with odds of 3-to-1. Historically, he's done several things better than Guida. According to FightMetric, he has a better takedown success rate, better takedown defense, and gets hit less often. He's also considered to have an edge in power, even though he only has two career knockouts on his ledger.
All of those factors seem to offer him several routes to victory against Guida.
Considering his background as a collegiate wrestler, Maynard isn't over-reliant on his takedown game. In fact, Guida is far more likely to look to change levels and take the fight to the ground, as he has averaged 4.27 takedowns per 15 minutes, far above Maynard's rate of 2.91.
Maynard is often content to stand on the outside and put his faith in his striking, using his boxing as his primary method of engagement. While this has been a growing trend for Maynard, who in his last fight with Edgar tried just two takedowns, he has the element of surprise with him this time around. Why? He recently changed camps, shifting from Nevada's Xtreme Couture gym to California's American Kickboxing Academy.
While both teams have done well in high-level MMA, the latter has specifically molded several wrestlers into fully rounded mixed martial artists. With new voices in his ear for the first time in years, it's entirely possible that Maynard will not resemble the same fighter we've gotten to know throughout his UFC tenure. Even though he'll likely feature all of the same characteristics, he should certainly have added a few wrinkles to an attack that sometimes became too reliant on a single element.
The biggest advantage Maynard probably has in this fight is that he should be able to dictate its location. He may not be able to score every takedown he attempts, but he should be able to snuff out most of Guida's repeated attempts at putting him on the mat, a tactic that "the Carpenter" uses to deflate opponents. If Maynard chooses to keep it standing, his power may play well off of Guida's activity, as he naturally likes to counter and Guida never hesitates in taking what openings are available.
Guida's motor could be a factor to keep an eye on. He's a guy that never seems to run out of gas, keeping a furious pace from bell to bell. That's helped him grind down opponents over the years, even in fights in which he's otherwise naturally outgunned. Meanwhile, Maynard has shown some troubles in the late rounds of his recent fights with Edgar. Given the fact that Maynard-Guida is a scheduled five-rounder, it's certainly possible that Guida (29-12) capitalizes on a late fade.
Guida's offense when both are at full strength is certainly not up to the level of Maynard's in terms of firepower. He doesn't have textbook striking, his head movement is mostly cosmetic judging from the numbers -- he absorbs more strikes than he lands -- and he's never been much on power, with just one knockout in his 15-fight UFC career.
That means he's got to win as he always does, by transforming the fight into a grind. Maynard is not the type of guy to grind against; Jim Miller couldn't do it successfully, neither could Kenny Florian. Edgar mostly survived against him with speed. Guida doesn't boast the same speed as Edgar, so he'll have to hope that his constant movement is a reasonable and effective substitute.
While I have some concerns about Maynard if the fight goes past the third, I think he should build a comfortable lead by then on the strength of his counter-striking and power. Guida will have the opportunity to steal it away in the late rounds, and it's going to be up to Maynard's conditioning to conserve any lead he's built.
There may not be much to gain for the winner, but with both men coming off such significant defeats, in a title match and No. 1 contenders match, respectively, expect them to fight like there is. But Maynard has more tools and more power, and as long as he can survive Guida's last onslaught, he'll win a decision.