The main event at Ultimate Fight Night 20, which saw Gray Maynard (9-0) squeak by Nate Diaz (11-5) to win a split-decision, has been widely panned. There have been cries that Diaz deserved the win, questions about the soundness of Maynard's strategy, and, most of all, criticisms that neither fighter went all out to secure the victory. Even if some of those critiques are justifiable, there is still no denying that the fight sent shock-waves through the UFC's lightweight division.
Prior to the fight, it was assumed that a decisive victory for Gray Maynard would earn him the next shot at 155lb. champ, B.J. "The Prodigy" Penn (15-5-1). After the fight, however, neither Gray Maynard nor his head-trainer Randy Couture seemed particularly interested in a showdown with the world's greatest lightweight.
Randy's thoughts via MMAJunkie.com :
"Gray learned a valuable lesson in this fight, and it's that you can't let someone get in your head...I think Gray verbalized that and realizes that's what happened and that he got caught up in Diaz's attitude. I think he's capable of beating B.J. Penn right now, but I think a little more experience would do him well... You think Diaz talks some [expletive]? B.J.'s a pretty good [expletive]-talker too."
Not exactly a statement of interest, but surely Gray is raring to go:
"If they want me to (fight Penn), I guess I will, but it all depends on the timing... I just go where the bosses tell me to. I'm not going to be down on my knees. I'm not going to make up some stuff (to talk my way into it) ... Whatever they want, I'll be ready."
Alright maybe not.
Truth be told, Randy and Gray are probably right to seek a bit more seasoning before calling out Baby Jay. Sure, there aren't many UFC lightweight fighters who have a better chance of beating the UFC's Flyin' Hawaiian, but that doesn't instantly make risking a first-class whoopin' from Penn a great idea for Maynard at this point in his development.
Meanwhile, Nate Diaz, Gray's main-event opponent at UFN 20, is not a happy camper-- he feels he did enough to win all three rounds. Via Nate's Twitter.com account:
"Just watched the fight 3 times I won last nite all three rounds (expletive) the haters....."
Nate is also considering abandoning the lightweight class for at least some of his future fights, citing the fact that he doesn't earn enough money there to justify putting himself through the difficult weight-cutting process multiple times per year. The following quote is available on Graciefighter.com:
'I fought like garbage and I'm sorry to my fans for my performance. I was hesitant about throwing hard punches because I kept thinking he was going to go for a takedown. It looked like I was knocked down in the second but actually he stepped on my foot and when I tried to back out I slipped. I really don't think I'm going to stay at 155lbs. I don't make enough money to have to drop this much weight so I'd like to fight at 170 and only go to 55's every once in awhile. You know if you look at his face compared to mine right now you'd think there was no way he beat me in a fight but I've never been too popular with the judges."
I am not nearly tough enough to tell Nate Diaz what to do. That said, it seems to me that if he wants to pursue a career at welterweight it would be wise to commit to the jump full-time. That way he could pack on the serious muscle it would take to compete against the GSP's, Jon Fitch's, and Anthony Johnson's of the world. There are some scary dudes up there and just casually putting a toe in the welterweight waters would seem to be a great way to get your face turned inside-out.
Finally, perhaps the biggest news to come out of Maynard's controversial victory over Diaz is that Frankie "The Answer" Edgar (11-1) will now receive the next UFC lightweight title shot. This fact was confirmed by UFC President Dana White in an exclusive interview with MMAFighting.com. White went on to explain that, despite the fact that Maynard is undefeated and still holds a win over Edgar, "The Answer" has looked better in recent fights. Dana also said that Edgar has faced better UFC opponents than Maynard since their fight (Edgar: Veach, Sherk, Franca / Maynard: Diaz, Huerta, Miller, Clementi), which is very debatable. He also implied that Edgar vs. Penn was justifiable based on the fact that Edgar had finished more UFC opponents (Edgar: Veach, Bocek / Maynard: Veres), but that is hardly relevant since neither fighter is much of a finisher. In any case, the UFC clearly believes Edgar is better prepared for a shot at Penn, despite the fact that "The Answer" was totally dominated by "The Bully" from bell-to-bell when the two met at UFN 13.
All logic and reason aside, in their infinite wisdom, the UFC may be right. Edgar's game is probably slightly more well-rounded and, as mentioned above, Maynard's mental game may not be developed to the point that he is prepared to deal with one of the best smack-talkers in the game. Dana White also confirmed that B.J. Penn's next fight will likely occur at the UFC's Middle Eastern debut in Abu Dhabi, which is unofficially set to go down April 10th at UFC 112.
Rarely has such a cooly received, non-title match as UFN 20's Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz had such a significant impact on a UFC division. If nothing else, it should be remembered for that. Although, I also thought it was a pretty fun little scrap in its own right.