In Clay Guida’s last five UFC bouts his opponents have read like a who’s who of MMA talent; current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, Gray Maynard, Anthony Pettis, Takanori Gomi and Hatsu Hioki.
Tonight at the UFC on FOX 6 from Chicago, Ill., Guida made his featherweight debut and finally snapped his two-fight losing streak, securing a split-decision victory over the aforementioned Hioki in front of his hometown crowd at the United Center.
Guida bobbed and weaved with his signature hair tailing just behind him and used a
combination of brief striking and well-timed takedowns to control the majority of the fight -- at least in the judge’s eyes.
As the fight ended and Guida raised his hand in approval, seemingly trying to garner some hometown love, many pundits across the social media landscape had the fight handily for Hioki, this writer included. However, when the 15-minutes were up, the official scorecards read 29-28 Hioki, 30-27 Guida, and 29-28 Guida, and many were left shocked at the discrepancies in the obvious overblown scoring.
Also, troublesome for Guida was the fact that he did little to erase the memory of his less than stellar performance in his last outing against Gray Maynard at UFC on FX in June.
Prior to tonight’s showdown with Hioki, Guida entered the cage on a bit of a career freefall of sorts. Guida was coming off back-to-back losses, but even for Guida -- a man who has gone 9-7 in his UFC career prior to tonight -- losing had become old-hat and an acceptable outcome for his loyal fans.
“The Carpenter” had always endeared himself to his throngs of faithful, win or lose. But with Guida’s most recent split-decision loss to Maynard, the Illinois native implemented a controversial gameplan. In that particular fight Guida was less aggressive, sacrificing power and speed for accuracy and counter punching. It didn’t sit well with some fans, and consequently, Guida and his coach Greg Jackson took more heat for a close loss against a former title contender than he had in any prior outing.
Tonight against the Japanese legend Hioki, Guida had a chance to win back some of those fans. Instead, Guida did a lot of the same things that turned fans off back in June. He danced more than he fought, and when he did earn a couple of spectacular takedowns -- culminating with a powerful slam to open the second round -- Guida did little to nothing with his dominant position after that point.
If it were any other fighter perhaps people wouldn’t care. But with Clay Guida, his fans have become accustomed to insane, five-star, championship-level fights, win or lose.
Expectations are a tricky thing, especially with the fickle fans that the MMA masses tend to be, but when you make your name being a unique, one-of-a-kind type brawler, fans begin to “expect” that type of performance every time you step in a cage. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is.
Wins are wins, and Clay Guida got back in the win column tonight with his performance against Hioki, but time will tell how many fans he may or may not have won back. Sometimes, especially in this sport, those are the wins that matter more.