Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Big 3, Part One: Florian vs. Maynard

Holy shit, here we go.

After watching "Countdown to UFC 118" (again), I've decided that the 3 biggest fights on the card deserve their own individual, and in depth, breakdowns. Consequently, I've decided to put together " The Big 3; Parts One, Two, and Three", which will detail the 3 biggest and most interesting fights on the card. 

Make sure you have your tighty whities on, 'cause you're gonna have a boner.

First up on the Big 3, we feature the scrap for the number one contenders spot: Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard:

kicking your ass will be wicked cool!
Nope, nope, K(L)enny...I only like things that are soft.(This is a reference to "Of Mice and Men", for those that didn't get it).

This match up, like many on this card, promotes some controversy.  Most ( myself included) would say that Florian deserves the first shot at Frankie Edgar's belt.  Although only two fights out from his last title fight with BJ Penn, Florian has stopped big name fighters Clay Guida and Takanori Gomi.  It stands to reason that, having stayed in the upper echelon of fighters his entire career, Kenny is the only obvious choice for Edgar's first title defense.

This is where the controversy comes into play.

In his 12-1 record, the only person that Edgar has lost to is Maynard, himself.  After that fight, Maynard stated "He was a lot smaller than me, and I felt like I could throw him around.  So that's what I did."  Edgar himself has stated that Maynard deserves the title shot, since he [Maynard] is the only one to beat him.

This in turn lead to it's own tangent of controversy involving BJ Penn, who claimed that Edgar showed his true colors (yellow) by saying he wished to face Maynard instead of an immediate rematch with Penn.

But that will come in Part 3.

For this current bout, let's look at the build up.

I have been very fortunate to meet both Kenny and Gray (here in Vegas at local MMA bouts), and both were very humble and down to earth guys. Up to this point, both have adhered to the old school martial artist standard that stipulated: I'm a regular guy that just happens to fight; I don't need to talk about how tough I am.

Lately, though, Maynard has been very vocal about this fight with Kenny, being verbally more aggressive than I have yet seen him.  So let's break it down.

Maynard is physically intimidating. Due to my background in bodybuilding, I was considered a large lightweight, but when I stood next to Gray, he dwarfed me.  He uses his physical size and power as an asset to control the ring.  By controlling the ring, he can effectively dictate where the fight takes place.

Maynard trains here in Vegas at Extreme Couture, which has a strong reputation as a wrestler's MMA gym.  Under Randy's training mentality, they take high level wrestlers and give them the tools to be absolute beasts in MMA.  His striking offense has improved dramatically, as evidenced by his bout with Roger Huerta.  Defensively, however, his striking is lacking.

Like the majority of wrestlers, Maynard is not completely comfortable with throwing a punch.  The subtle nuances that are ingrained in a long-time striker don't flow as effectively in wrestlers. Throwing shots from the hip, pivoting the rear foot, punching through a target as you execute a combination (while punching with speed and not muscle), getting your hands back into position as quickly as you throw them out; these are some of the things that many wrestlers struggle with.  This becomes an issue if you are dealing with someone that has quick hands.

In his last fight, Maynard faced Nate Diaz.  While I feel that there is no question that Gray won the fight, there were a number of instances were Diaz gave him issues.  I personally feel that Nate Diaz's striking game is over rated.  He pitter-pats and throws a number of shots, hoping one will land on a blind chin or temple.  This happened when he faced Gray, catching him with a barrage of punches that dropped Maynard to the canvas.

If Diaz can catch you, what do you think K-Flo will do?

The epitome of a thinking man's fighter.  K-Flo has presented himself as a professional from day one.  His game has changed dramatically since his time in the TUF house, and I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that would argue against him being the most well rounded fighter in the lightweight division.


Does anyone not remember that?  While I can appreciate and enjoy the intricacies of a ground war, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love a dramatic and emphatic finish just like everyone else.  Kenny has gone 8-2 in his last 10 fights, with 7 of those wins coming by stoppage.  The singular win that he didn't finish is the sole similarity between himself and Maynard: Roger Huerta.  This is where the similarities end.

While Maynard may be undefeated at 9-0 (with 1 no contest), the level of competition faced by each opponent is drastically different.  While Gray struggled with Diaz, who is mid level at best, Florian has beaten a "who's who" of fighter's in the UFC lightweight division.

Gray has the size, strength, and wrestling pedigree to take Kenny down, but it is easier said than done.  Kenny's in and out movement is  Machida like, and even if Gray manages a take down he has to contend with Florian's black belt level BJJ ground game.  Sorry, Gray; but I just don't see how you win this.

With the win, Kenny will be back in the number one contenders slot; right where he should have been from the get go.

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