It’s been six years in the making since Nate Diaz and Gray
Maynard first met during the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter,
but their trilogy of bouts officially came to a close at the TUF 18
finale with the door slamming shut on the rivalry.
The first meeting, while not on their official records, ended
with Diaz getting the win by guillotine choke before Maynard evened
things up a few years ago when he pulled off a split decision
victory in a hotly contested bout.
Now with both fighters coming off recent knockout losses, a win
on Saturday night was paramount for Diaz and Maynard not only for
their rivalry but to stay relevant in a deep and dangerous
Maynard, who moved training camps three fights ago to begin
working with American Kickboxing Academy, showed up early with his
wrestling — a go to staple of the early part of his career
but something he’s largely abandoned in his last four fights. While
Maynard got the fight to the mat quickly, he wasn’t able to subdue
Diaz’s counters where the Stockton native landed a judo throw on a
reversal before ultimately working back to the feet.
It was there that Maynard started reaching for his shots, trying
to tag the long, lanky Diaz with power punches, but largely coming
up with air. Maynard landed only five significant strikes the
entire fight out of the 15 total that he threw.
Accuracy and volume of punches weren’t a problem for Diaz, who
unloaded on Maynard at will once he got his range down and started
tagging the former Michigan State wrestler. Diaz’s output is
unmatched in the division and as his fists started to find a home,
his confidence grew exponentially.
As he looked for an opening, Diaz finally connected with a
quick, straight left that knocked Maynard down to one knee and from
there it was like target practice as he began firing off rounds
without any resistance from his opponent. Diaz pinned Maynard
against the cage and just rattled off punch after punch, waiting
for the stoppage to finally happen.
Maynard’s toughness outlasted his body because while he was
still standing, there was no resistance to the punishment he was
taking and referee Yves Lavigne mercifully stopped the bout albeit
a few punches too late. As Diaz turned away to celebrate, Maynard
attempted to step forward and just fell down on the mat unable to
keep his balance after the mauling of punches he just endured.
All told, Diaz landed 33 of 55 significant strikes, which
yielded an incredible 60-percent accuracy in the first round finish
It’s sometimes hard to gauge what a win means for Diaz because
he generally doesn’t speak much about himself or his performance
after a fight, and the same could be said when he was affording
time with commentator Jon Anik following his first round knockout
over Maynard. Instead of reveling in the moment, Diaz took the
chance to pull in his teammate and close friend Gilbert Melendez
and proclaimed that they were together the two top lightweights in
the UFC awaiting all challengers.
“Just so everybody knows, the No. 1 and No. 2 lightweights in
the world are right here in me and my man right here (pulls in
Gilbert Melendez),” Diaz said. “My man beat Ben Henderson for the
title and they let Anthony Pettis fight him. So you and (Josh)
Thomson, get with me and my boy right now cause this is our
Diaz mentions Thomson because one fight ago he was knocked out
by the former Strikeforce lightweight champion and has been gunning
for a rematch ever since. Thomson is already set to face Benson
Henderson for his next fight in January, but any time Diaz is
involved in a rivalry there’s always a chance the UFC would run it
back and do it all over again.
As for his standing in the division after two tough losses in a
row, a win on Saturday night was huge for Diaz (17-9), who can now
move back into the thick of the contender’s race. With a list of
possible matchups at 155 pounds, Diaz could take on any top ten
fighter and make it exciting although he has expressed interest in
moving up to welterweight again in the future as well.
What comes next for Maynard (11-3) is a much different story to
interpret. Once an undefeated title challenger, Maynard has gone
just 1-3-1 in his last four fights with all three defeats coming by
way of knockout. At 34-years of age, Maynard will now have to face
an uncertain future when he wakes up on Sunday after the loss to
Diaz and his eventual plummet in the UFC lightweight rankings.