UFC Fight Night 20: Maynard vs Diaz (Main Card)
…and the Zuffa fight train just keeps on rolling. Fresh off of last night’s WEC 46 and UFC 108 a little over a week ago, tonight’s UFC Fight Night: Maynard vs. Diaz will be the outfit’s 3rd televised card in 9 days, taking place at George Mason University’s Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA (Ed note: To the aficionadi, please ignore the following note. To the new or uninitiated, if you want to see another good MMA show, Ultimate Warrior Challenge (UWC) usually fights out of the Patriot Center and holds cards every couple of months. Check ‘em out and support local/regional MMA). Since all fighters made weight as of yesterday afternoon, let’s hope the UFC 108 curse, which has already spilled a little onto the UFC 109 card, does not claim anyone by tonight.
Before I jinx anything, let’s get to the main card:
Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz
The main event, Gray Maynard vs. Nate Diaz is not only a grudge match, but may hold lightweight title shot implications should Maynard pull out the victory. Now, I only say “grudge” since Diaz subbed Maynard during season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, knocking him out of the tournament. I also only say “may” hold title shot implications since rumors are swirling that BJ Penn may defend his belt next (read: dismantle) against Frankie Edgar, despite his loss to Maynard, at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. Maynard’s literally wrestled his way to a 9-0-1 record and riding a five fight winning streak, most recently against Roger Huerta and Jim Miller, while Diaz beat Melvin Guilliard at FN19 last September. Maynard is the favorite, but I’d be careful if I was him. He’s great at dictating the pace with his wrestling, but taking it to the ground may give Diaz the opportunity to put his Gracie-bred jiu-jitsu background to good use. Still, I give it to Maynard on this.
Jay’s pick: Maynard via decision
Floyd Mayweather is afraid of soiling his perfect record so his fight with Manny Pacquaio has been cancelled/postponed. Apparently, Escudero & Dunham don’t have that problem as they’ve agreed to risk each of their undefeated records. Do not adjust your computer screens. I really did just compare one of the biggest boxers on the planet to two relative unknowns fighting on a Monday Night UFC Spike card. Ludicrous? Yes. Absurd? Yes.
…though Escudero showed improved striking in his win over Jim Miller, Dunham won’t go down without a fight and I don’t see Escudero putting him away in quite the same fashion. I still do, however, seeing Dunham going 9-1 after tonight.
Jay pick: Escudero via submission, R3
Tom Lawlor vs. Aaron Simpson
Don’t worry. No way I can make any bombastic comparisons to boxing megastars in this fight. Both Lawlor and Simpson come into this fight on winning streaks, with Lawlor subbing CB Dolloway at UFC 100 and Simpson (technically) knocking out Ed Herman at UFC 102. “The Filthy Mauler” (Lawlor) is another TUF alum on the card with a solid wrestling background and submission skills to boot. Simpson nullifies the wrestling with his own skill set, but will try to keep it standing given that all six of his victories have been finished via TKO/KO. Lawlor’s tough, but I think Simpson is smart to not take it to the ground and will meet stuff the takedown attempts before putting him away.
Jay pick: Simpson via TKO, R2
In continuing with Fight Night’s continuing TUF reunions theme, season 7 winner Amir Sadollah, coming off his decision victory over Phil Baroni, takes on the more experienced Blackburn, an IFL vet currently on a three-fight winning streak while in the UFC. Sadollah rebounded from getting smoked in 29 seconds by Johnny Hendrick at UFC 101 by winning a unianimous decision against Phil Baroni at UFC 106. Blackburn doesn’t seem to have the best conditioning (neither did Baroni), but will hopefully make up for it with experience and some solid hands. With a pretty close line (-130 Sadollah, +160 Blackburn), I’m torn on this one. If Sadollah can survive the first round and a half, he can put away Blackburn late with his great muay thai or grind out a decision. If his fight against Hendrick is any indicator, however, his chin can get tagged by Blackburn’s heavy strikes and it could be a short night. I like Sadollah as a fighter and ambassador for the sport, but for the sake of amusement, I’ll go with Blackburn.
Jay pick: Blackburn via TKO, R1 (Ed note: I wouldn’t bet your mortgage on this one. This is a “fun” pick)
Two Final Quick Notes:
1) Chris Leben. You headlined a PPV in ’08 and were on the main card of a great event in ’09. You lost both and are now on the UNDERCARD of a Fight Night. Come on, man. Get in touch with your inner crazy.
2) Fight Night 20 goes head-to-head with the Mike Tyson-hosted WWE RAW. Not exactly Monday Night Wars.
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