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Crunching Numbers: Gray Maynard, Clay Guida and Why Takedowns Matter Most

Josh Hedges,Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Josh Hedges,Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Gray Maynard and Clay Guida hold places in the UFC record books for technical prowess as it relates to takedowns. According to Fight Metric, Maynard has the sixth best takedown defense percentage of all UFC fighters at 85%. Clay Guida is ranked sixth best among all UFC fighters in terms of takedowns successfully landed at 48. In their main event at UFC on FX 4, the winner of the bout will be the fighter who meaningfully upholds or adds to these telling takedown accolades.

Here's what I mean.

It's difficult to envision a scenario where Guida meaningfully strikes with Maynard for any real portion of their fight. He might be able to land a shot here or there as a set-up for something else, but it would require Guida to do something he's never done at this level of the game to win standing via strikes. His best bet is to secure the takedown and work 'riding time' or find a way to be the first fighter to submit Maynard. That's no foregone conclusion, but three of Guida's last four UFC wins have come by way of submission. The other was a win over Anthony Pettis that was a function of top, positional control.

Maynard has more options. He can strike with Guida standing. Maynard has only one TKO/KO win in all of his UFC victories, but has rattled opposition like Jim Miller and Frankie Edgar with heavy shots. All of this requires keeping the fight upright, but his success at defending takedowns against elite lightweights means he's up to the task. Maynard could also elect to take Guida to the ground. That's no simple task, though. While Maynard has a respectable takedown accuracy of 55%, Guida has stopped an impressive 68% of takedowns from fighters he's faced.

In a bout like this, however, we can more easily point to how they can lose more than how they can win. There are two noteworthy components to said effect that could have a significant impact on the outcome. First, the bout is five rounds, a fact that favors the effervescent Guida. Second, while Guida's accumulated takedown number is impressive and he's secured more takedowns than all but five UFC fighters, his percentage of success per attempt is relatively low. 'The Carpenter' is successful on less than half of his attempts with a 40% accuracy rate.

Maynard has never fought a wrestler with the frenetic style of Guida. Helpful comparisons from previous experiences are going to be limited. That said, the Miller fight from UFC 96 is probably as close as we're going to get (Edgar is much too quick and mixes up strikes with takedowns much more successfully than Guida). The real tale of that fight was how much Miller was out struck, but he was also wrestled. Miller attempted eight takedowns over three rounds and was unsuccessful every single time.

Miller was insistent on several attempts. He'd push for a head outside single on lead and rear legs, changing motion and angles on the turn to get Maynard off balance. None of them worked and he absorbed fairly significant damage in the process.

The question is whether that portends trouble for Guida. I'd offer that it does and doesn't. On the one hand, it's clear Maynard is an expert at defending the takedown from a wide variety of attacks. He has superb technique and is athletically able to lord his size and strength over his lightweight contemporaries to keep the fight upright.

On the other hand, Guida is no Miller. While Miller may have valiantly tried to yank Maynard to the floor, he doesn't latch onto opposition in the hunt for a takedown like Guida. If Guida is unsuccessful on the head outside single, he quickly switches to a double. If the double doesn't work, he'll return immediately to the single. If that doesn't find him success, he attempts an ankle pick or even will look to take the back standing. And even if none of this lands, he's worn out his opposition in the process while not allowing his competitors to fight the way they prefer.

Let's revisit the two crucial facts of this bout that could affect the outcome: fight length and Guida's takedown success rate. Guida doesn't have an impressive percentage of takedown success from single attempts, but how often does Guida attempt a double leg, get stuffed and surrender the attempt altogether? Almost never. And unlike Miller, Guida isn't going to give Maynard time to breathe during breaks from isolated takedown attempts.

That's important to consider in a five-round fight. Maynard uses as much technique as he does brute physicality and there's some evidence to suggest he fades as the fight goes longer. Guida, by contrast, almost never fades, at least not to the degree of his competitors as the bout length increases.

Maynard has some of the most impressive takedown defense in the UFC, but can fade in championship rounds after competing at a high pace. Guida's takedown success rate is low, but he's so dogged in his pursuit of the takedown he eventually gets it anyway. Over the course of five rounds, Guida's energy never seems to fade. For a fighter like Maynard who almost always goes to a decision, staying competitive throughout the course of the bout under what is sure to be Guida's intense pressure is going to be the key to victory. In real terms, that means staying on his feet or being on top after a takedown and punishing the durable fighter every chance he gets.

This is what I mean when I say whoever upholds or adds to their respective takedown accolades will be the one who wins. Success on those terms means the fight kept a complexion that favored their strengths. Like coaches and trainers always say, 'fight your fight'. Nowhere is that more necessary for victory than Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida.

All quantitative data provided by FightMetric except where otherwise noted.

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