Another season of The Ultimate Fighter means another TUF Finale in Las Vegas. The event, which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 30, from the Mandalay Bay Events Center, was slated to feature a flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. However, a knee injury to lightweight champion Anthony Pettis forced the UFC to shuffle multiple events.

When the dust settled, a lightweight rubber match between two TUF alums and consensus top-10 fighters, Nate Diaz and Gray Maynard, was left to the headline the event. The pair have met twice previously, once on the reality series with Diaz winning via submission, and as the main event of UFC Fight Night 20 in 2010, which Maynard claimed via razor-thin split decision.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Diaz – 10, Maynard – 9

With nearly 30 combined victories, it might seem strange that these two only have a handful of knockout wins between them, but with Diaz’s lethal submission game and Maynard’s smothering wrestling attack, neither relies solely on their stand-up game.

Diaz’s striking is nearly a carbon copy of his older brother Nick’s volume-based attack. He uses solid footwork and angles to get inside and pepper his opponents to the head and body. The lack of finishes by strikes on Diaz’s record is a bit deceiving, as his constant pressure wears opponents down and sets up a lot of his submission wins.

For Maynard, the striking department has been a heavy focus in recent years. Yet, despite the work he put in with Gil Martinez at Xtreme Couture and Javier Mendez at American Kickboxing Academy, Maynard has succumbed to strikes in two of his last three outings. One came in his rubber match with Frankie Edgar, but it was his most recent fight, against T.J. Grant, that is most concerning for Maynard. Maynard was battered by the Canadian in just two minutes. His propensity for looking for big power punches affects his gas tank and frequently leaves him open for counter shots.

Ground Game: Diaz – 10, Maynard – 9

Even if Diaz and Maynard had never faced one another, there’d be little argument about who is the more dangerous ground fighter. Diaz possesses a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Cesar Gracie and 11 of his 16 career wins have come via tapout. His long frame makes him very dangerous off his back and his guillotine choke is devastating. During the pair’s time on the reality show, Diaz used the choke to submit Maynard.

Outside of the Diaz loss on TUF, Maynard has never been submitted. But, on the flip side, his only win via submission also came on the reality show. With his NCAA Division I wrestling background, Maynard has solid positional control and is able to avoid a lot of bad spots on the mat. This was true in the second meeting with Diaz, as he employed a smothering attack to keep Diaz in check.

Wrestling: Diaz – 9, Maynard – 10

Much the way that Diaz has a clear advantage in the submission game, he has a disadvantage in the wrestling aspect. That’s not to say he can be taken down at will, as he possesses great balance. However, his opponents have been able to bully him along the cage from time to time, and that plays right into Maynard’s hand.

As a three-time All-American at Michigan State, Maynard’s wrestling pedigree largely speaks for itself. He has used his powerful takedowns and stifling top control to earn nine of his 11 wins by decision. Although Maynard’s style may not be the most crowd-pleasing, it’s hard to argue its effectiveness. He used it to best Diaz once before, and there’s little doubt he’ll look to do so once again.

X-Factor

Cardio, cardio, cardio. That might seem cliché, but it will be a major factor in this fight. Even with Maynard’s wrestling background, he has faded later in fights because of his power-punching striking. Meanwhile, Diaz is a cardio machine. As the second meeting revealed, Diaz only gets stronger as the fight goes on, and that is bound to be a factor in the third meeting as well.

Total: Diaz – 29, Maynard – 28

Verdict: Both fighters have come a long way since The Ultimate Fighter and are very different fighters from their second meeting in 2010. Each has challenged for the UFC lightweight belt in that time frame, and now each is hoping to get back in the win column at the other’s expense. Maynard’s win in 2010 was hardly convincing, and unless he’s changed something significant in his fight game, he’ll fall short on the scorecards to the more talented Diaz.

Photo: Nate Diaz (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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