FAIRFAX, Va - Tonight's UFC Fight Night 20 Main Event is a lightweight battle between lanky Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fighter Nate Diaz and stocky Xtreme Couture wrestler Gray "The Bully" Maynard. While Maynard has an unblemished professional record with notable wins over Roger Huerta and Frankie Edgar, his loss to Nate Diaz via second round submission during Season 5 of "The Ultimate Fighter" no doubt still haunted him.
Maynard, who wrestled on the same Michigan State team as Rashad Evans, is a worldclass wrestler with a laundry list of high school and college wrestling decorations while Diaz, who won season five of The Ultimate Fighter, is an accomplished JiuJitsu fighter holding a brown belt under Cesar Gracie. At thirty years old, Maynard is six years the senior of Diaz, who enjoys a four inch height advantage and a whopping six inch reach advantage. By most accounts, a victory for Maynard would mean the inside track to fighting BJ Penn for the lightweight title, while a Diaz victory could mean a title shot for Frankie Edgar.
After opening round one without a handshake, the fighters measured each other in the center of the Octagon and pawed at each other for quite a while. I didn't see how Maynard got cut over his right eye very early in the fight, but even though it was bleeding quite a bit, the cut is far enough to the side of the eye that it won't bleed into the eye socket and impede his vision. Diaz talked to Maynard a little early in the round, and Maynard waved Diaz in on a couple of occasions later in the round. But, neither fighter really made a statement and I wouldn't have wanted to have to score the round - though I guess if pressed I would have narrowly given it to Diaz.
Diaz leveraged his reach early in round two to land a couple of leg kicks and slapping punches, but again, neither fighter did much damage early in the round even though they remained in close quarters. Halfway through the second round we hadn't seen any ground action even though this was a matchup between a wrestler and a submission specialist. When Diaz finally went down courtesy of a Maynard knee, Maynard chose to let him back up rather than engage on the ground. With a minute left in the round the crowd started to boo more showboating by both fighters without any real damage to back it up. The second round probably went to Maynard by a margin as narrow as the first round's, but the fight is close enough that I am really hoping it doesn't go to the scorecards at the end.
But of course, given the rest of the night's events, it will.
The crowd grew restless again in the third round as neither fighter was able to assert himself early on and the fairly even stand up striking exchanges continued throughout the round. Maynard stuffed a Diaz takedown with thirty seconds to go and the fight limped to an unfulfilling finish. The crowd booed the final horn and I braced myself for the decision. Bruce Buffer reported a spilt decision win for Maynard with widely divergent scorecards and the crowd seemed pleased, if not confused.
Is it just me, or if experienced judges sitting ringside can score a fight so differently (as in one judge giving the fight 29-28 to Diaz and another giving it to Maynard 30-27) then don't we need to reform the scoring criteria or change the system somehow??