Finally, after two memorable battles and a rather lengthy delay, lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and unbeaten No. 1 contender Gray Maynard will collide and conclude their memorable trilogy. The five-round rematch headlines UFC 136 on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston some nine months after their unforgettable second encounter ended in a draw.
Will the larger Maynard finally fulfill his dream and become a world champion or will Edgar defend his crown and prove his detractors wrong one more time?
ESPN/Sherdog.com recently touched base with a number of professional trainers and fighters to gauge their opinions on the UFC 136 "Edgar vs. Maynard 3" main event:
Gegard Mousasi: I think Gray Maynard will win. I think he's going to fight a little bit smarter this time. I think he'll win a decision.
Daniel Cormier: Gray's one of my buddies so, out of selfish reasons, I'm going to be as unbiased as I can because I'm very biased. I'm picking Gray Maynard by decision.
Pat Healy: It's a tough one to call but I'll go with Frankie because on his feet he uses more of his tools. He punches, kicks, and uses a lot of movement. Gray just throws a lot of hands. I think Frankie will take that one by decision.
Ben Rothwell: Frankie is going to be odd and Gray is going to be even. I'm going to roll the dice. [Literally rolls dice] Oh! Sorry, Frankie's going to win this one! I just rolled a "3" and I said "odd" for Frankie, right? Yup. Frankie's going to win it.
Aaron Riley: Oh man, that's interesting. That's tough (to pick). Yeah, that's a tough one! I'll say ... What did most people go with? I'll go with Frankie because he knows ... I don't know. I'll go with Frankie because most people are probably going with Maynard!
Frank Shamrock: I will take Maynard. He is a much better actor and generally a real nice guy.
Nam Phan: I say Frankie can hold the title.
Travis Lutter: Crazy hard one to pick. Frankie rallied from almost being knocked out in their last fight, so I guess I will give the edge to Maynard.
Travis Wiuff: Another war -- I think Maynard takes this one on a very close decision.
Jaime Fletcher: I think Edgar's superior striking carries him to a decision. Maynard is too tough to be put away by Edgar, and Frankie will be ready for Gray's power blitz.
Dewey Cooper: I have to say their second fight was one of the three best MMA fights in history: Chuck Liddell vs. [Jose] "Pele" [Landi-Jons] in Brazil, Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin 1 and, of course, Edgar vs. Maynard 2. This is a pick 'em fight. It could go either way. Edgar could win this fight with his athletic ability, all-around skills and his superb conditioning, or Maynard could win this fight on his pure will to win, strength, punching power and all-out aggression. I have to go with my hometown homie, Maynard, on this one. I think he wins [by] cutting the cage off effectively, forcing striking exchanges with Edgar, finally catching the champion with his powerful punches and finishing him this time. It's a guaranteed war, for sure.
Cristiano Marcello: I believe Maynard will come in with a striking strategy, because he knows he has more knockout power. On the other hand, Edgar is faster and has a lot of endurance, beyond being better on the floor. The strategy will decide the champion in this difficult fight.
Greg Nelson: I am going to have to go with Frankie. He got caught in the first round of their last fight and then fought Rounds 2 through 5 like Round 1 never happened. Wow! That being true, Frankie will be much smarter in this fight and will use his footwork, mobility and timing to score on and frustrate Gray. Frankie has improved his game every fight, [while] Gray has stayed his same tough self for his past fights. I may be wrong, but I can't see him developing the same mobility and continuous, nonstop, round-after-round, in-and-out movement that Frankie has. The fight has potential to be once again super great. It will also be a great display of using the entire Octagon to win a fight by Frankie.
Josh Thomson: Frankie by the dirty Jersey beatdown.
Yves Edwards: Great fight. I'm looking forward to this one. I flipped my coin, and it stood on its edge. I have no idea.
Thales Leites: Edgar gets the win on a judges' decision.
Javier Vazquez: Frankie is one of my favorite fighters: quick, accurate boxing, great scrambling ability and very tough. Gray is tough as nails. He is big, strong and aggressive. One thing bothers me: Maynard had Edgar as hurt as you can have someone and could not put him away. I'm not saying that the same thing could not happen again because Maynard has very good boxing ability, but I believe that Edgar has learned from his mistakes. Edgar will use great footwork and superior head movement to not get caught again. Edgar will outlast Maynard to win a close and competitive five-round decision.
Mike Whitehead: Gray by decision.
Fabio Maldonado: It's a 50-50 fight, but Maynard deserves the win. He fought the champion twice and didn't lose either fight. I will cheer for him.
Tom Vaughn: Frankie seems to get better in rematches. I wouldn't put money on it, but I'm going to say Frankie by decision.
Dan Hardy: I think both guys are awesome; it's so tough to call. I have to pick Gray, though. I think he is a little more physically powerful and has more chances of stopping Frankie. Plus, he has bulldogs on his hubcaps -- he has to be tough.
Kyle Kingsbury: I got Maynard by TKO in Round 2.
Jason Lambert: Edgar by decision.
Eduardo Dantas: I believe Maynard will win because he is stronger and more complete. Edgar should move to featherweight, as he does not have the weight or the size he needs to fight at lightweight. I bet on Maynard by knockout.
Sam Hoger: I think Gray is finishing the job this time.
Roan Carneiro: Edgar won't have trouble like he did in their last fight. He is more complete than Maynard, and I believe he's going to win a decision.
Kultar Gill: The little bumblebee has probably learned from his mistakes from the first round of their last encounter. I see a decision victory for the bumblebee. Frankie wins.
Keith Berry: I'm going with my boy, Maynard. I thought he won the [last] fight, so I see him coming in the same way and getting the five-round decision. Edgar is super tough, but I think he's a true 145-er.
Gabe Ruediger: Damn, what a toss-up fight. Could really go either way. I'll go Gray ... no, Edgar ... Gray ... yeah, Gray.
Benji Radach: Gotta go with the revenge of Maynard. Thought he won the [last] bout.
Tom Gavrilos: Speed of Edgar versus power of Maynard. Edgar's movement and improved boxing are a huge factor, but his in-and-out style never really allows him to plant his feet. The wrestling is great for both, but Maynard will be stronger in the clinch and more likely to be on top if the fight hits the ground. I think Maynard is capable of taking it there. It's easy to sit on the fence on this one because it is such a razor-thin margin for victory between the two styles, but I'm going to have to take Maynard by decision.
Andre Amado: Edgar is an athlete that moves very well, but not in the direction of his opponent. Meanwhile, his game has validation, because he doesn't have the body structure to handle a tough exchange. Beyond that, there are many tougher guys than Edgar in the lightweight division, and if he loses his belt, it's going to be very difficult for him to get it back. It's going to be a good fight, but I will cheer for Maynard. I like him better.
Joe Duarte: After the first two fights, this one is hard to call. Maynard has a size and strength advantage, but Edgar has speed and 135-pounder cardio. In a three-round fight, I would go with Maynard, but fighting for 25 minutes is a different story. Maynard has to jump on him early, but I believe that Edgar will weather the storm en route to a decision win.
Patricky Freire: It's going to be a great fight. I believe Gray will come in with a well-prepared strategy, but, for me, Edgar is better in all areas, even in boxing, takedowns and endurance. Maynard's only chance is a knockout.
Jason Dent: I'm picking Gray to win this one. Gray won the first fight between the two and nearly destroyed Frankie in the rematch. I believe he has the heavier hands, strength and better wresting.
Ron Foster: I'm sure Frankie won't make the same mistakes that he made early in their last fight. I see Frankie staying on his bike a bit and forcing Gray to chase him for a round or two. After the pace slows, I see Frankie beating Gray to the punch with crisp boxing and outpointing him in another five-round war. Should be a good fight, but Edgar should be able to outlast Maynard with superior cardio. Edgar wins by unanimous decision.
Ronys Torres: Maynard wins by KO.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: Edgar proved how tough he was and how much heart he has in that second fight. However, I can't bet against Maynard in this fight. Gray is bigger, stronger and arguably the same or a better wrestler. I think Gray gets the job done by decision in a war where Edgar has his moments. I expect the fight to be pretty similar to their first encounter, where Gray used takedowns and Octagon control. I still believe that Frankie should be fighting at 145 pounds. Edgar vs. [UFC featherweight champion] Jose Aldo would be a great matchup. When guys are equal in skill, then size and strength usually become factors. That's why I think Maynard wins.
Pros Picking Maynard: 18
Pros Picking Edgar: 16
No Pick: 4
You can also contact Mike Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19. Features editor Brian Knapp and Gleidson Venga contributed to this report.