By Thomas Gerbasi
FAIRFAX, VA, January 11 – It probably wasn’t the way lightweight contender Gray Maynard pictured it, but before a sold out crowd at the Patriot Center Monday night, he got the “W” he wanted more than any other, as he was awarded a close three round split decision victory over Nate Diaz in the UFC Fight Night main event, a win that avenged his defeat to Diaz on season five of The Ultimate Fighter.
Scores for Maynard were 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29, a verdict that wasn’t greeted warmly by the packed house.
“It feels good,” said Maynard of avenging the TUF5 loss. “Game plan and technique went out the window. I saw that guy and I just wanted to throw. It was stupid, but I hope everybody enjoyed it.”
Diaz stalked Maynard calmly to open the bout, with Maynard responding with the occasional wild haymaker. Diaz began talking to Maynard, who was already bleeding from over the right eye, trying to goad him into a firefight. The shorter Maynard was having trouble getting his range, but Diaz wasn’t piling up the points either as the round entered it’s final two minutes. With the round up for grabs, the two upped the pace in the last 120 seconds, each getting in some punches and kicks before the bell.
Both Diaz and Maynard got a little busier in round two, with Maynard landing the best punch of the fight thus far 90 seconds in when he nailed Diaz with a thudding right hand. Diaz was unmoved by the shot and went back to his unorthodox southpaw attack, but a knee by Maynard dropped the Stockton, California briefly and another right hand knocked him off balance moments later. Neither blow appeared to hurt Diaz, but definitely made an impression on the judges. Diaz went back to showboating in the final minute, and Maynard joined in for a moment, but nothing resulted from their show of bravado, and the crowd let them hear it.
Diaz was the more active fighter in round three, and while Maynard trudged forward, he was not scoring enough to keep Diaz from apparently piling up the points in this pivotal round. Even in the clinch, Diaz was showing no signs of wear, but Maynard did finish strong, apparently doing enough to secure the victory on the judges’ scorecards.
And with that bit of business finished, he looks towards a possible showdown with UFC lightweight champion BJ Penn.
“If they want me, I’m here for them,” said Maynard. “If you want me to do it, let’s fight.”
With the win, Maynard improves to 10-0 with 1 NC; Diaz falls to 11-5.