There are some fighters in history who have been relegated to a notch below the best in the world. For years, Jon Fitch was the perfect example of a fighter who staked him claim as the clear number two fighter in his division. He was good, but could never beat Georges St. Pierre. Kenny Florian also lost two title fights at lightweight and lost a featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo at UFC 136. Some guys simply don’t have the athletic gifts to be the best in the world. Gray Maynard seems to be one of those fighters who is very good, but not the best in the world. On May 25, 2013, he’ll look to receive his third title shot by defeating TJ Grant at UFC 160.
Maynard has a lot of skills that allow him to dominate most lightweight opponents. He is incredibly big and strong which allows him to bully his opponents. His boxing, while not all that fast, is powerful. If he had landed the punches that he landed on Frankie Edgar in the first round of their fights on any other fighter, he probably would have knocked them out cold. His wrestling is dominating as well, which plays into the size advantage that he holds against most fighters. When he gets on top of most lightweights, he is able to pound on them with his powerful punching.
Unfortunately his biggest strength also plays into his biggest weakness: though Maynard is incredibly strong, he is also rather slow for the division. Every movement he makes is powerful but as a result, those movements are slow. Edgar illustrated how speed can be Maynard’s kryptonite, especially in the later rounds. Furthermore, with Edgar at least, there seemed to be some mental block that Maynard was unable to overcome: in both fights Maynard knocked Edgar down in the first round and was still unable to finish Edgar.
Maynard’s cardio in five round fights also holds him back from becoming a champion. Unless Maynard were to stop Benson Henderson, I can’t see Maynard sustaining a high enough work rate to beat Henderson via decision. He faded against Edgar in their first fight and he faded in their second fight to the point that Edgar, who isn’t known for his power, was able to knock Maynard out.
TJ Grant is younger, faster, and hungrier than Maynard. The fight itself should be fun an action packed but I can’t see Maynard ever becoming the man at lightweight.