Fairfax, Va. — In the UFC’s first venture into Virginia, fans streamed to the exits of the Patriot Center at UFC Fight Night 20 before the decision of the main event was even announced.
Gray Maynard scored a split-decision victory over Nate Diaz, perhaps earning a title shot at lightweight champion BJ Penn.
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Maynard (9-0) remained undefeated, but was submitted by Diaz in The Ultimate Fighter semifinals — a defeat that does not count against his professional record.
“The game plan, the technique went out the window,” admitted Maynard, whose wrestling is the hallmark of his MMA game. “I saw the dude out there that beat me.
“(The plan was) boxing, moving in and out. If I take him down, work the top a little bit. But I saw his face and I wanted to fight. It was stupid, but I wanted to do it.”
Diaz got the better of the early striking when he opened a cut to the outside of Maynard’s right eye. The boxing match continued for the next few minutes as Maynard tried to load up his right hand while the lefty Diaz did the same with his left. Maynard was switching levels with his strikes but never shot for a takedown in a very close round.
The first two minutes of the Round Two featured Maynard’s inside quickness against Diaz’s lanky reach. The quickness was winning out by the middle of the round as Maynard scored with quick strikes.
Maynard was not seem confused at all by Diaz’s unorthodox southpaw style, perhaps because he brought in WEC featherweight LC Davis for two weeks of training in December.
Diaz started his showman antics in the final minute of the second round, egging on Maynard by sticking out his chin and talking trash. Maynard responded with some gamesmanship of his own, and it carried into the early parts of Round Three as the crowd disapproved of the main event.
It mostly was the same until the final bell, with neither ground warrior attempting a takedown until Diaz’s unsuccessful attempt in the final 30 seconds.
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