The Carpenter Needs To Reshape His Craft

By Raphael Garcia

The main event of UFC on FX 4 was expected to go one of two ways: Gray Maynard versus Clay Guida was either going to be a barn burner, with both combatants trading blows from start to finish, or a wrestler’s contest, that would see extended periods of mat time. Instead, we ended up watching Guida move around the cage in a fashion that drew the ire of the fans in attendance, and even worse, UFC President Dana White. Now, the fighter known as the “Carpenter” has placed himself in a peculiar career position.

Since 2008, Guida has been a lightweight fighter that rides waves of victories and losses. This is the second time in his UFC tenure that he has put together a streak of three or more wins, only to turn around and lose two straight. It’s apparent that Guida will not be a fighter who is ranked in the top five of the very deep and competitive 155-pound weight class. At 30 years old, the time is ticking away in his career, and in order for him to remain in the marketable position he has enjoyed in recent years, he will have to make some changes.

Guida has become known for an erratic striking style that can confuse an opponent at the onset of a fight. However, when he has faced the top tier of lightweight fighters, he has not been able to deal with these opponents effectively on the feet. Wild movement and throwing punches from awkward angles will work against lower-tier fighters, but we’ve seen technical strikers such as Kenny Florian pick Guida apart on the feet. Even Rafael dos Anjos was landing effective punches before breaking his jaw in their UFC 117 bout. Guida is a good enough wrestler to get most fights to the ground, but he has to develop his striking beyond the point where it is today, and that may require a shift in team affiliation.

We saw how a change in scenery helped Maynard during this fight, and the same tonic could be applied to Guida’s career as well. It might be time for him to leave Jackson’s MMA, and move to AKA, a team that has helped develop wrestlers into effective strikers as well. AKA features a number of fighters who broke into the sport as wrestlers, but have since grown into complete mixed martial artists. Names such as Jon Fitch, Cain Velasquez, and even the recently departed Josh Koscheck have populated their respective weight classes’ Top 10 rankings for some time, while Daniel Cormier is the most recent example of a wrestler who has become a top-tier talent. Guida would certainly benefit from working with that type of organization. He should follow Maynard to San Jose, and join the team at AKA.

This is not the only change that Guida needs to make in his career. Guida would also benefit from taking heed to the strategic move that Florian employed towards the end of his career — a move down to featherweight. Guida has mentioned in the past that he could make the weight cut, and he has expressed a willingness to do so if he was unable to progress further at lightweight. If Guida is able to make 145 pounds, he could easily put himself in a position to quickly emerge as a title contender.

Outside of Chad Mendes, the UFC’s featherweight division is not packed with wrestlers like its 155-pound counterpart. Instead, the group is full of pinpoint strikers, and while that has been a bane to Guida in the past, if he can score takedowns against these opponents, the size differential would certainly come into play. Along with that, we have no reason to believe that Guida would be unable to keep pace with the lighter fighters for a full bout, because he currently seems to be one of the most well-conditioned athletes in the sport. If he moved down to featherweight and defeated one or two top contenders, it his highly likely that the UFC would place him into a title bout to capitalize off his cult following.

There’s no doubt that Clay Guida has worked hard to get to where he is today. However, the former Strikeforce lightweight champion may have reached a plateau, as evidenced by his most recent performance. We will soon see what goes on from here, but in order to truly turn the corner in his career, Guida will have to make some changes.

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