Listen, I love Gray Maynard. He is one of my favorite fighters. Perhaps even irrationally, I think he should be right in the mix for a third shot at the UFC Lightweight Title. Not to mention I would not wish an injury on anyone, especially someone I am a fan of, like Gray.
That being said, I couldn’t have been more geekily excited when I saw the UFC tweet that Maynard was dropping out of his fight at UFC 155 against Joe Lauzon, and that Jim Miller was stepping up on short notice to take his spot. Lauzon has emerged as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, and has one of the most relentless fighting styles of anyone in the promotion. If you need any proof, please treat yourself to this terrible video of his epic beat-down of Gabe Ruediger at UFC 118.
Miller is a great match-up for Lauzon because he too has an in-your-face style that involves a lot of pushing the pace forward. It is hard to imagine either of these two slowing things down and fighting a cautious fight, which makes this an early odds-on favorite for me to place a bet that this will be “Fight of the Night.” This is especially true considering the fact that the winner is right in the thick of the title picture, while the loser will be knocked down considerably.
That’s not to say that Maynard isn’t capable of having exciting fights. But the excitement he provides is different. While Lauzon and Miller are exciting like a drag race, with a lot of speed and action, Maynard is more exciting like a marathon. You can appreciate the skill it takes, but it is generally slower paced and doesn’t have as much constant action. And, honestly, even though Lauzon is no slouch when it comes to defending take downs and fighting off of his back, there was a fear in the back of my mind that his awesomeness would be neutralized by Maynard clinging to him for three rounds with his relentless wrestling and power. Think Maynard-Nate Diaz, or even Clay Guida-Anthony Pettis for similar smotherings.
With the Miller-Lauzon addition, UFC 155 is shaping up to be one of the deepest and most exciting UFC cards of the year. Taking place on December 29, the show also features the heavyweight title rematch between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, Chris Weidman looking to secure a possible title shot against Tim Boetsch, Alan Belcher finally looking to get some deserved attention against Yushin Okami, and Phil Davis beating down Forrest Griffin.
Hopefully the injury witches that have plagued the UFC and Dana White throughout 2012 leave this one alone. We are so close!