TODAY'S PAPER
Broken Clouds 53° Good Afternoon
Broken Clouds 53° Good Afternoon
SportsMixed Martial Arts

Did Gray Maynard earn a title shot against BJ Penn?

Gray Maynard defeated Roger Huerta by split decision

Gray Maynard defeated Roger Huerta by split decision at Ultimate Fight Night 19. Photo Credit: UFC Photo

The prevailing thought going into Monday night's Gray Maynard-Nate Diaz main event at Ultimate Fight Night 20 in Fairfax, Va., was that if Maynard won, he'd get a title shot against lightweight champion BJ Penn.

That fight most likely would take place in April in Abu Dhabi. A high-ranking UFC official even strongly hinted that was the case.

All Maynard had to do was beat the lanky, trash-talking Diaz, and he'd be on a plane to the capital of the United Arab Emirates in three months for a shot at Penn's UFC belt.

Well, he beat Diaz . . . barely.

It was a less than impressive performance for Maynard (10-0), winning a split decision. How one judge scored it 30-27 in favor of Maynard suggests that someone has photos of someone else and there's a Facebook posting threat developing.

During his in-ring post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan, Maynard touched briefly on a showdown with Penn. He said nothing of consequence. He sounded more scared and deferential than confident.

At the post-fight press conference, when asked to expand on his earlier statements, Maynard said "UFC hasn't said nothing to me, not a word."

Perhaps Diaz was still stuck in his head. Maynard allowed Diaz's trash talking in the Octagon to seep into his head. Out seeped his game plan, something both he and trainers Gilbert Martinez and Randy Couture were upset about.

"He learned a valuable lesson in fighting," Couture said. "You can't let anyone get into your head. He was trying to rip his head off with one good one."

With that lapse in focus, Maynard nearly let his championship opportunity slip away from him and into the hands of Frankie Edgar. It was assumed that a Maynard loss would open the door for Edgar to get his title shot.

Based on previous fights, it would appear that Edgar has the better shot to mount a serious challenge to Penn. Of course, if Penn's last two fights - a submission of Kenny Florian and a thorough beatdown and TKO of Diego Sanchez -- are any indication, then neither fighter has much to look forward to in April.

"I think he's capaoble of beatng BJ Penn right now," Couture said of his fighter. "But I think a little more experience would help, too."

Maynard's last six fights have all gone to the scorecoards, the last two of which were split decisions.

Is he ready for Penn? No. Did he do enough against Diaz to earn the title shot? No. Is there another legit title contender aside from Edgar? No.

So look for Edgar on the live card at UFC 111 in Newark, N.J. (his home state), on March 27, and Maynard in the main event in April in Abu Dhabi. Just don't look for too much once Maynard and Penn get into the Octagon.

New York Sports