Mixed Martial Arts: AKA
June, 22, 2012
By Josh Gross
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesA recharged Gray Maynard is hoping a change of scenery has done him good.
Learn a lesson from Gray Maynard.
The 32-year-old lightweight contender felt "stagnant" and "boxed in." He wasn't living in a place he or his fiancee wanted to call home. So he did what many people often discuss but rarely do: He took action.
"I didn't want to talk about it a year or two later," Maynard said.
A month prior to fighting Frankie Edgar for a third time, he parted ways with Xtreme Couture, the only MMA gym he knew, and set up his own shop.
Maynard admits the situation "wasn't good, but it's not an excuse. That's why I never made it a big deal. It was my choice and I have to deal with it."
A few weeks after losing a chance to become the UFC lightweight champion when Edgar finished him in the fourth round, the 155-pound powerhouse left Las Vegas in the rearview mirror, headed west and settled in Santa Cruz, Calif.
"It's hard to leave a gym," Maynard said. "It's hard to leave your home. It's a tough move. It's not like I was gonna leave for [one training] camp. I was like, let's move. It kind of happened quicker than we were planning on, but it was good to do that."
As a result of the journey, when Maynard steps into the cage Friday night in Atlantic City against Clay Guida, he'll do so with a revamped corner and a new view on what it means to be a mixed martial artist.
"I felt like I hit a plateau, and it was time to get some new ideas," he said. "I needed a change. Xtreme Couture is where I started; it's awesome, I love them all there. I just had to evolve more. There's a lot to the game."
Maynard's 10-1-1 record serves as testimony to the effectiveness of his wrestling skill and raw power. He is strong and hits hard, which is why it was easy to succumb to the boxer-wrestler trap while forgoing other areas of his game.
His first stop was the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
"He was only doing one or the other when he first came to the gym," said AKA-trained lightweight Josh Thomson. "He was only boxing or wrestling, but the combination from punch to [takedown] shot wasn't that clean. It was decent but wasn't clean."
Maynard credits Thomson, whom he helped prepare for a May contest against Gilbert Melendez, heavyweight Daniel Cormier, AKA coaches Javier Mendez and Bob Cook, boxing trainer Rick Noble, UFC veteran Mac Danzig and the Nova Uniao camp for getting his "juices flowing again."
In Brazil, Maynard worked with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo in advance of what turned out to be a late first-round stoppage against Chad Mendes. Maynard said he was impressed by the camp and its approach to MMA.
"I just saw a lot about the whole game," he said. "Nova Uniao, they're good in all areas. It was a lot more of the MMA game, and it got me going again, got me thinking about stuff."
He brought that attitude back with him to California and continued upgrading. Maynard expects to show some of those new skills and mentality against Guida in the main event of UFC's latest offering on FX.
Thomson, who works Maynard's corner alongside Noble and Danzig, acknowledged that the No. 4-ranked lightweight according to ESPN.com has "got a lot of things going through his mind right now as far as how to try and use the new tools he's developing."
Still, Thomson said the changes Maynard implemented in recent months are paying off in the gym.
"I just want to see how it meshes and comes together in a real fight," Thomson said. "He's not going to do it overnight."
Fans shouldn't expect spinning back kicks from The Bully, but his transitions between striking and grappling realms are said to be crisper. His boxing application looks tighter, more efficient and requires less energy. As a result, combinations are flowing the way he'd like them to. He also honed in on his wrestling roots with the impressive Cormier, Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix champion.
Guida, ranked No. 7, will provide a stern test, which Maynard welcomes.
"It was a good choice for us," Maynard said. "He brings a little bit different approach for each bout, but he always goes hard. That's all I can ask for."
As for what unfolds in the cage, regardless of where he trained or the level of shape he worked himself into, Maynard is mindful that the plan of attack is up to him. He may have new tools to use, but it would be a mistake to shift too far from the attributes that brought him to this point.
Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it's not.
February, 6, 2012
September, 5, 2011
By Franklin McNeil
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comJeff Monson, right, can testify about Daniel Cormier's progress from wrestler to mixed martial artist.Initially, Daniel Cormier wasn’t deemed attractive enough to receive one of the eight invitations to Strikeforce’s Heavyweight GP. The consensus was that he was too green and had too many blemishes in his standup game to warrant a ticket to the big dance.
Cormier, undefeated in the cage at 8-0, is a highly skilled wrestler who was adept at taking an opponent to the ground and control him. But his striking was lacking, both offensively and defensively. Too often, Cormier appeared indecisive on his feet. He threw punches from wide, awkward angles, his head wasn’t always moving and footwork could oftentimes be an afterthought.
A flaw in just one of those standup techniques can prove disastrous against a top-tier Strikeforce heavyweight. Unfortunately for Cormier, he was struggling with all of those aspects. So, he began devoting extra attention to his standup game at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif. The move immediately paid off when Cormier stepped in the cage June 18 against veteran Jeff Monson.
Cormier consistently moved his head, he never stopped moving his feet and there was the jab that regularly hit its mark. The former United States Olympic wrestler even showcased a crisp overhand right that found Monson’s chin on a few occasions.
It was an impressive performance by Cormier, who earned a unanimous decision win. More importantly, Cormier proved that he was no longer a one-trick pony.
Dave Mandel/Sherdog.comNo one has ever questioned Daniel Cormier's competence as a wrestler, but his striking has been another story.
Cormier is now ready for Strikeforce’s elite. And he won’t have to wait long to prove he can compete against top heavyweights. In July, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was removed from the Grand Prix tournament due to a scheduling conflict; he’d later be released outright from the promotion.
Cormier was offered the chance to replace Overeem. He immediately accepted and is set to face Antonio Silva on Saturday night (Showtime, 10 ET) in Cincinnati.
“He was the first person under consideration [to replace Overeem],” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “He had a great performance against a seasoned veteran like Monson.
“And in that fight, his standup, he looked like a kickboxer actually and hardly wrestled at all. He showed he had the standup ability to take it to the next level.”
Cormier will sacrifice a ton of experience to Silva, but the standup improvement he has shown in this camp has his AKA teammates confident their guy will be successful Saturday night and throughout the tournament.
“Daniel has an amazing wrestling background,” UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez told ESPN.com. “But he’s also one of those guys who picked up this sport very quickly. He is definitely going to go out there and impress a lot of people.
“He’s had a great training camp. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is going to win the tournament.”
He's had a great training camp. There's no doubt in my mind that he is going to win the tournament.” -- Cain Velasquez, on Daniel Cormier's growth as a fighter, and future success in the Strikeforce GP
While Cormier is comfortable standing these days, if things aren’t going the way he’d like against Silva, expect him to turn quickly to his bread-and-butter skill: wrestling.
There is nothing like wrestling to turn a fight in Cormier’s favor. And he intends to give Silva (16-2) a steady dose of it. Still, he has no plans of completely abandoning the newly acquired skills he’s come to believe in recently. His jab, head movement, footwork and overhand right will play a significant role in this fight.
“I’m going to be quicker than he is, more athletic, more agile,” Cormier said. “He’s bigger, stronger, more experienced; he’s got the standup advantage.
“He’s got the jiu-jitsu advantage. That’s fine. But the most dominant skill in MMA lately has been wrestling. And there is no bigger gap between skill sets in my wrestling over his wrestling. That will keep me in the fight if that’s the path I take.”
Cormier vows to pressure Silva throughout the fight, that’s where his improved jab and footwork will come in handy. It allows him to transition from standup to takedown much easier.
Silva will face a new-look Cormier.
“I’m going to push the pace on him,” Cormier said. “I’m going to get in his face, and I’m going to take him places he hasn’t been so far.
“I’ve got to make him uncomfortable. And because of the way I fight, I have the ability to do all those things.”
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