UFC's Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz hope third time's a charm
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Former "Ultimate Fighter" Season Five castmates Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz will face each other for the third time, meeting Saturday night in the main event of Season 18 "TUF" finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Diaz defeated Maynard on his way to winning "TUF" in 2007. Maynard defeated Diaz three years later at an Ultimate Fight Night.
"It's pretty cool, but you just take them one at a time like it's a whole new one," Maynard. "The key is to win two out of those three. Then, it's fun."
Considering the time lapsed between the fights -- the three are spread over approximately seven years -- Maynard said not much information can be gleaned by studying their past bouts.
"It helps to look back, but the main thing is to watch the tapes of the last two or three fights," Maynard said.
Diaz has had an up-and-down career since winning TUF. He briefly went up to welterweight before returning to lightweight following a pair of losses in 2011. He won his first three fights after the switch, before losing to UFC lightweight champion
Benson Henderson last December. Diaz, 16-9 overall, sustained his second consecutive loss earlier this year when Josh Thomson recorded a second-round TKO.
Despite the losses, Diaz remains the No. 8-ranked fighter in the UFC's media poll, and poses a threat to Maynard.
"He can take a punch," said Maynard, whose loss to Diaz on TUF does not count on his official record. "He's a lefty, long. Those are always kind of tough to deal with. Plus, he's got freaky jiu-jitsu."
Maynard's career has been much more steady. Maynard, ranked No. 5, has defeated some of the UFC's top lightweights -- Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller, Diaz, Roger Huerta and Kenny Florian. The first official blemish on his resume was a draw to Edgar in their second bout in 2011. The duo fought a third time later that year, and Edgar retained the title.
Maynard, 11-2-1 with a no contest, has split his two fights since -- winning a decision over Clay Guida last year and getting knocked out by top contender T.J. Grant earlier this year.
The card (live, Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. EST/7p.m. PST) , will feature the two Season 18 bantamweight finales -- Chris Holdsworth vs. David Grant and Julianna Pena vs. Raquel Pennington or Jessica Rakoczy. (The Pennington-Rakoczy fight took place several months ago but will air Wednesday night in last "TUF" episode of the season.)
Holdsworth, who represents Team Meisha Tate, won both of his fights via first-round submissions to reach the finale. Grant, a member of Team Ronda Rousey, submitted Louis Fissette in the first round of the tournament and was given a bye in the semifinals after Anthony Gutierrez failed to make weight.
Pena, Tate's first selection, utilized a pair of second-round submissions to reach the finale. Pennington (Tate) and Pennington (Rousey) won their first-round bouts via decision and submission, respectively.
Preliminary bouts include featherweights Akira Corassani vs. Maximo Blanco, featherweights Rani Yahya vs. Tom Niinimäki, heavyweights Jared Rosholt vs. Walt Harris, welterweights Sean Spencer vs. Drew Dober and flyweights Ryan Benoit vs. Josh Sampo.