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Optimistic for Frank Edgar vs Gray Maynard at UFC 125

via <a href="http://video.ufc.tv/generated_images/UFC125_100980_EventFeature.png">www.ufc.com</a>
via www.ufc.com

Anyone who gets to know me well enough will agree I'm fairly tolerant. When it comes to poor, disappointing or lacklustre fighter performances I believe in second chances and giving fighters the benefit of the doubt in the face of widespread criticism. For instance I was willing to look at certain factors in the Anderson Silva vs Cote / Leites fights while others weren't, although Silva truly lost me in the mockery he made of the sport against Demian Maia which was one of MMA's all time low points in my opinion.

With that in mind I think a lot of the criticism since the Gray Maynard vs Frank Edgar rematch was officially made has been unwarranted and exaggerated. For months we've heard it's a match up that will generate little interest and will have to be propped up by a stellar card due to the inevitable dud the main event would be. I even saw some critics write off UFC 125 completely when Jose Aldo pulled out due to injury but I can only assume these critics also happen to be hypochondriacs.

Edgar vs Maynard part deux has the potential to be a great fight. While I have no problem with a strong card supporting it I disagree with others who say it really needs it but I'm probably in the minority. We all know for any Pay Per View to be a success the casual fans with disposable income is the target audience. Unfortunately in the run up to this fight I don't think Edgar or Maynard have been marketed that well by the UFC, especially Edgar their new champion. Even after two back to back wins against legend BJ Penn maybe they still don't want to invest in Edgar because they believe or hope he won't be champion for long, something I felt they did similarly with Anderson Silva when he first took the belt off Rich Franklin (UFC even tried to give Franklin a sense of home town advantage in their rematch). Maybe the UFC still remember Edgar's prior loss to Maynard and are bracing themselves for an even less popular champion.

Edgar doesn't talk trash but as he gave us a brief glimpse of at the UFC 125 pre-fight press conference, he has a sense of humour. His story is a good one - an undersized New Jersey overachieving underdog - and his fights tend to be exciting despite not leading to a finish. When he first burst into the UFC and upset Tyson Griffin it was easily one of the best fights of the year and Edgar has had fight of the night honours twice since. His first fight with BJ Penn seemed to end in controversy (something I didn't see myself other than some scoring specifics) but the second left no doubt and it was quite frankly a superlative performance. Fancy footwork and a great mix of striking and level changing, corner turning takedowns showed Edgar was coming into his own as a fighter and taking strides towards the top of the sport regardless of weight class.

Then there's Gray Maynard who many believe to be the main downside of this fight. His personality isn't the most captivating or extroverted to say the least and while that might be a promotional problem it can be compensated for by electrifying performances in the ring, something Maynard has yet to deliver. However Maynard does have moments of intrigue that get overlooked and forgotten. His hands have been getting better for a long time and he definitely has KO power as his second fight in the UFC against Joe Veres showed although the quick fashion it happened in would cause many to claim it as a fluke occurrence. Also a fluke occurrence was the No Contest in his fight prior where he slammed Robert Emerson to a stoppage while also knocking himself out (some cynics would say that's the most exciting Maynard's ever been). He has the potential to pull off crowd pleasing slams but similarly to Edgar the plethora of decision victories unfairly count against him.

Maynard has also on occasion shown innovative submission attempts. Who here remembers the head scissor / 'Kimura' he torqued Roger Huerta with? Post-fight more focus was on Huerta toughing it out while the testing of his shoulder mobility had everyone cringing rather than the uniqueness of the submission in an MMA fight. In fact since then we've seen similar combo moves get more attention when Chris Lytle or Cole Miller have pulled them off, although they got the all important finish when they did theirs.

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A lot of people previewing this fight believe they've got the outcome sussed: Edgar wins on the feet, Maynard wins on the ground, it'll end in a decision. That in itself is a likely, possible outcome but shouldn't bring with it the sense of doom and gloom inaction many are predicting.

It's become an increasing trend to heavily criticise a fighter that doesn't finish a fight. The UFC and some other promotions offer financial incentives for a finish, but plenty of fights that go the distance are capable of achieving the Fight of the Night bonus as we've seen countless times. Kenny Florian attempts to market himself as someone who finishes fights and along with other fighters who unnecessarily apologise for not finishing feed the notion that if you don't finish, you must suck. Dana White's catchphrase of "Don't leave it in the hands of the judges" is more of a cop-out from directly criticising Athletic Commission negligence and incompetence rather than being of any sage advise, with the most White will do is go after a particular referee but never a particular judge, and certainly not an overseeing Head Honcho (maybe there are certain people the mighty Zuffa cower from).

The more high level and even a match up the more likely we are to see stalemates during a fight and the more judges decisions we'll see decide the outcome. Sometimes a finish is as much to do with skill as it is to do with an imbalance in talent between the two fighting, or it can be a certain X-Factor like concussive power and it comes down to who lands first, something that tends to occur more at the heavier weights than the lower. Fighters should be able to leave it in the hands of the judges as should any athletes where observer scoring is necessary otherwise there's no point in having them. In combat sports though, they're as necessary as weight classes and time limits and should be embraced as a sign of legitimacy despite the many flaws it currently needs to iron out.

The concept of a decision should always be seen as two fighters at their best evenly matched and having their contest going down to the wire despite the varying, random reality of how entertaining the fight will be which can only ever be discussed fairly in hindsight. Personally I can see Edgar and Maynard going back and forth in a technical battle showing off a complete MMA game where both fighters will have their moments on the feet as well as on the ground with a few good scrambles in between. That's the sort of fight we should all hope goes the distance so it's something to savour and pour over in time to come. I'd certainly take that over a short fight that ends without telling us much or is anti-climatic.

Edgar vs Maynard 2 could be the sleeper fight of the night. Here's to hoping.