Aspiring writers (like me) often hear the phrase “find your voice.” This refers to the idea that each writer has one unique way of writing and they need to develop and nurture it. Doing this is not easy; it takes time and effort. The same is true for MMA fighters. Fighters learn techniques from their instructors, but they find their “voice” through sparring sessions and their fights. When Clay Guida first entered the UFC, he knew his voice and used it very effectively. Entering UFC 164, Guida had earned 10 wins in the Octagon, including victories over former title contender Nate Diaz and new lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. On August 31, however, Guida showed that he has lost his voice and paid for it with the first TKO loss of his career.
Guida began his career in the UFC as a wrestler who looked to take his opponent down, keep them there and beat them up until the referee pulled him off. His boundless energy and enthusiasm made him a fan favorite, and even when he lost he showed the heart of a champion. His fights with Roger Huerta, Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian were three of the best fights ever seen in the UFC, even if they did all end in losses for Guida.
After the loss to Florian, Guida went on a tear, winning four in a row, including a fantastic submission finish over Takanori Gomi and a decision victory over Pettis. This run vaulted Guida into title contention. Following the Pettis fight, Guida fought the soon-to-be lightweight champion Benson Henderson, who handled Guida at every turn. Henderson, like Guida a wrestler by nature, is also one of the best athletes in the UFC and easily countered every attack that Guida threw at him. Losing this fight seemed to change something in Guida.
Guida challenged Gray Maynard, another dominant wrestler, in his next fight. Guida came out in a style reminiscent of Dominic Cruz, who is the bantamweight champion of the UFC. Cruz is known for his footwork and striking skills, bouncing in range to tag his opponent with shots and bouncing out again at odd angles before he can be hit. Guida’s style in the Maynard fight may have been reminiscent of Cruz, but it certainly was not as effective. He mostly stayed out of range of Maynard, who (along with the fans) grew more and more frustrated as the fight wore on. Maynard was awarded a unanimous decision victory, but was visibly displeased with Guida’s antics in the fight.
Guida’s next fight, with Hatsu Hioki, led to more of this strange bouncing around by Guida. Guida won a split decision, but the fans clearly did not enjoy this “new” Guida. At UFC 164, Guida took on Chad Mendes, whose only loss was to featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Guida started his uneven bouncing right away and actually tagged Mendes a few times early, but soon enough Mendes began dominating the fight en route to a vicious third round stoppage.
Success in the UFC is not necessarily measured in the number of victories a fighter has. Randy Couture has an MMA record of 19-11 and he is remembered as an all-time great. Clay Guida was a very good fighter in the UFC who had won some and lost some but gave the promotion everything they could ask for each and every time he fought. He was a wrestler first and foremost, who wanted to take his opponent down and pound him out. This new Guida looks like an imitation of some fighter that he may want to be but is not well-suited for, and it shows. Guida needs to get back to his style, his voice, if he wants to return to UFC prominence.