Perhaps the masses were a little too quick to kick dirt on Gray Maynard’s career in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The three-time NCAA All-American wrestler returned to his roots in a lopsided unanimous decision over the favored Teruto Ishihara at “The Ultimate Fighter 25” Finale on Friday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Listed as a +273 underdog by BetDSI.com, Maynard was awarded three 10-8 rounds by the cageside judges and walked away with 30-26 scores across the board.
FightMetric credited “The Bully” with 11 takedowns -- more than his eight previous fights combined -- and six guard passes in the rout. Ishihara (-367) was powerless to stop his advances. The Team Alpha Male representative attempted just 19 total strikes in the 15-minute affair, as he was forced to play defense from the bottom. The 11 takedowns were a career-high for Maynard, besting his previous benchmark of nine set against Frankie Edgar in April 2008.
“This was probably the best camp [for me], hands down, just all the coaches communicating, asking me how I am, pulling back if I need to,” Maynard said afterward. “It really came together unbelievably. I don’t really see anybody stopping me after this.”
Maynard credited Ishihara’s toughness in denying his bids for submissions.
“He was doing a good job,” Maynard said. “He was slippery. He comes from a good team. We wanted to break him. We prepared to get him tired in Round 1, but he was pretty game.”
Ishihara was not the only favorite to crash and burn. Michael Johnson shared a similar fate in the main event, though he went out in a blaze of glory in a “Fight of the Year” contender against former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje.
Johnson (-157) had the undefeated Trevor Wittman protégé reeling at the end of the first round and again at the start of the second, but he could not close the deal. A brutal knee strike to the body in the center of the cage turned the tide for Gaethje (+128), who followed with a short uppercut to the face and then emptied his clip, cracking “The Menace” with punches, leg kicks, a flying knee and standing elbows. Johnson retreated to the cage, where more punches and one final knee drove him to a seated position and forced referee John McCarthy to act 4:48 into the second round.
Finally, Drakkar Klose improved to 8-0-1 and staked his claim as one of the top young lightweights on the UFC roster with a split decision over former British Association of Mixed Martial Arts champion Marc Diakiese. Klose (+203) chipped away at the explosive American Top Team export’s base with kicks to the lower leg and held off a late surge, prompting 29-28 scores from judges Jeff Mullen and Marcos Rosales. Derek Clearly cast a dissenting 29-28 nod for Diakiese (-262), who tasted defeat for the first time in his 13-fight career.