A Last Roll of the Dice for Gray Maynard at Featherweight

Gray Maynard has gone from uncrowned lightweight champion to an unknown quantity at featherweight.

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May 13 2016, 7:12pm

Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

By the time Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fought for the second time, 'The Bully' was considered the uncrowned UFC lightweight champion by a staggering amount of people.

Having gone unbeaten in nine tests in the Octagon, seeing off the likes of Nate Diaz, Roger Huerta, Kenny Florian and Edgar on the way to gaining title contention, Edgar's second title defense proved to be the epic encounter that people had been hoping for.

Maynard buckled his rival on two occasions in the first round of the bout, but in the end, Edgar managed to rally back to claim a draw to keep his title. When they met for the third time, Maynard proved that wobbling Edgar has been no accident the as the champion had to showcase his durability against another early onslaught from 'The Bully'. The Tom's River man brought finality to their third meeting with a knockout of Maynard, but nobody imagined the downfall that would follow for the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler.

'The Bully' claimed his last Octagon win nearly four years ago when he took a split decision win over Clay Guida in Atlantic City in June 2012. In his four fights since, he has been beaten solidly, with only one loss not coming by stoppage—his last outing from April 2015 against Alexander Yakovlev.

Yesterday, it was announced that Maynard is set to make his featherweight debut at international fight week when he faces Fernando Bruno on July 8 at The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Interestingly, Bruno fights out of one of the gyms that Maynard trained in during his downfall from the great heights of championship contention, Nova Uniao.

Given his record and his age, 37, Maynard will almost definitely be shown the door by UFC if he goes 0-5 in his last five fights.

The Fall

Before he fought Edgar for the second time, Gray Maynard had already decided that he would leave Xtreme Couture to experience different training camps from around the world. Two gyms he immediately name-checked were American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose and Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro.

Following his split decision win over Guida, Maynard was probably confident that he would go on to put on more dominant showings in his future Octagon outings.

"I thought Guida was coming to fight," Maynard explained to the crowd in Atlantic City following the official decision. "I wanted to prove to people that I could go a hard five, I thought Guida would do it. He's a tough kid. He came with a little game plan, whatever it was. I thought I won that fight fair and square with all three judges, but it turns out it was a split decision."

Little did he know, things were about to get a lot worse.

TJ Grant announced himself in the title picture with wins over Evan Dunham and Matt Wiman. As Maynard had reestablished himself in the win column with a victory over Guida, a meeting with Grant was slated for UFC 160.

A heavy favorite, a bundle of parlay slips got tossed when the Canadian's knee found it's target before he followed it with a right hand that ended Maynard's night. Because Maynard had started so strong and aggressive, it seemed as though his confidence may have gotten the better of him.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

With both coming off a loss, UFC saw it fit to let Diaz and Maynard to fight for a third time as both had claimed a win over each other at that point. Yet, after four minutes on the end of Diaz's combinations, Maynard was out on his feet and Yves Lavigne was forced to step on and stop the contest.

Despite a trip out to Arizona to join the ranks at Power MMA, Maynard again came up short in the striking exchanges against Ross Pearson when they met in August 2014. A competitive first round brought Maynard out swinging in the second, but 'The Real Deal' found him on the end of a short right hook before finishing him with grounded strikes.

Maynard's three-fight slide was rewarded with an eight-fight contract by the UFC, and the former lightweight contender announced his return to Xtreme Couture following his international sabbatical. Although he didn't get the win against Yakovlev when they met in April 2015, Maynard managed to stop three fight streak of consecutive stoppage losses.

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Maynard will have gone 15 months without competing when he finally takes on Fernando Bruno on July 8. The former title contender's decision to move down to featherweight ahead of the clash shows his willingness to try something new to end his barren spell. Throughout his competitive life, both in MMA and wrestling, Maynard has always competed very close to the 155 lbs mark with his collegiate career being contested at 157 lbs.

That being said, should the Phoenix native come up short again and add another loss to his current streak of four, it would be very surprising if UFC honored the six fights remaining on his contract.

Bruno trains out of Nova Uniao, a gym Maynard frequented after initially leaving Xtreme Couture, which might play into the American's hands. However, the fact that a lot of the fighters from the gym in Maynard's weight category probably gained a lot of knowledge of his by sparring him, Bruno will likely feel that the arrangement suits him better than his upcoming opponent.