September 4, 2013
What mixed martial arts fan doesn’t like Clay Guida? How can you not root for someone like that? He is far and away the most unique mixed martial artist of the last half decade. His look, his entrances, his fighting style, his lifestyle away from the cage. He doesn’t talk shit, he only fights top tier competition, he is humble, and gracious to all of his fans all of the time. Clay Guida’s nickname is “The Carpenter” and he goes to work with a hard hat and lunch pail each time he sets foot inside the UFC Octagon. Unfortunately for him and his fans, the Carpenter has become a screwdriver in a power drill era.
Guida’s greatest strengths; stamina, wrestling, unique fighting stance have evolved into his liabilities. Guida has gone from the precipice of a title shot in two divisions, to the veteran gate keeper. A slot any and every independent mixed martial artist would kill for, but a spot on the UFC’s roster Guida is too young and too talented to be typecast into in 2013. However, Guida like many fighters of the generation before him has done it to himself by refusing to evolve. Moving to New Mexico to train with Greg Jackson isn’t a cure all. Dropping a weight class to have a size advantage isn’t the missing piece. Guida has consciously or unconsciously resisted evolving into a more well rounded fighter.
At UFC 165 this past Saturday, Guida was stopped for the first time in his career by Chad Mendes. The fight was never in question. The Carpenter has only two tools in his belt, wrestling and boxing, Mendes is better than Guida at both. Guida’s split decision win in his featherweight debut against Hatsu Hioki was the definition of uninspiring. That fight was proceeded with back to back losses to Gray Maynard and Benson Henderson that convinced Guida to drop down to featherweight. But it wasn’t Guida’s size that lost those two fights. After all, he looked like a giant when he ground and pounded his way to a unanimous decision victory over Anthony Pettis in Showtime’s UFC debut in June 2011. It is Guida’s lack of technique that has caused his career to stagnate.
Being a boxer/wrestler is no longer good enough for any mixed martial artist to succeed at the highest level of competition, which is the UFC. If you want to be a champion in the UFC, this side of the year 2009 you need to be proficient in three disciplines and have a size advantage at minimum. Guida’s move to featherweight was a step in the right direction. Training with Greg Jackson and his murderer’s row of fighters at that camp in New Mexico is another great step. But if Guida is going to keep fighting the same exact style as before training at Jackson’s MMA, then all he’s doing is burning money and wasting time. If like me, you watched Guida’s last two fights, you know that he hasn’t changed his style at all.
The infinite gas tank, the never ending head bobbing, constant movement side to side, inside to outside which make him fun to watch, has made him easy to game plan. His opponents now know that if you can stuff his takedowns and keep out of his hand swinging range, that Guida is nothing more than entertaining to watch. Guida is a great wrestler, but it’s 2013 not 2003 and the sprawl is not a new craze just making the rounds at elite camps anymore. Takedowns need to be set up with striking now, it’s only optional if you have one punch knockout power, and Guida hasn’t had a KO or TKO since 2008. Guida can be classified as a submission artist when he gets his opponents on that mat, but he has proven himself unable to consistently get people off their feet for the last two years.
I live a half hour from Clay Guida’s hometown, I’m a big fan of his. It breaks my heart to see him repeating the mistakes of the great boxer/wrestlers who became irrelevant by refusing to evolve before him. Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Chael Sonnen, Matt Hughes, Tyson Griffin, Rich Franklin, and Gray Maynard all refused to change with the times despite achieving great success. Each one of those men can say that father time eventually caught up to them, that they were champions, and/or fought in big money fights. But each man listed before retiring was made to be merely an attraction fighter, in no way a legit title contender, because they had been exposed as being a two tool fighter, in a three tool or more era and refused to evolve (learn a new discipline). I don’t want to see Clay Guida’s name on that list, Clay Guida can still be a legit title contender.
Clay Guida can still be a UFC champion! But he has to evolve, he has to learn a new discipline. Muay Thai or kickboxing would be my recommendation because the threat of kicks from a distance and knees in the clinch would open up his opponents to takedowns. Once Guida gets them down, he knows everything one needs to know. But he can’t get them down consistently anymore. He needs help, he needs to learn, he needs to evolve. His trainer is Greg Jackson, so he’s not just in good hands, but the best hands. Guida is surrounded with some of the best strikers in all of mma. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Clay Guida must choose to learn from the failures of those who came before him, as well as the rest of the fighters in his camp and add another dimension to his game. If not, well then he can be a fan favorite, two division gate keeper who regularly appears on FOX and pay per views for the UFC. Still not bad work for a kid from Round Lake, Illinois.