Even though season 18 of the Ultimate Fighter will be housing its finalists this Saturday on Fox Sports 1 at the TUF 18 Finale, it’s safe to say that the spotlight will still be shining on the event’s headlining bout; a rematch between lightweights Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz. If you remember, Maynard edged Diaz via split decision back in their first official outing back in the beginning of 2010. While this is a rematch, in many ways it’s a rubber match. The pair competed against each other in the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter where Diaz won via guillotine choke. This fight proves to be a pivotal bout for both considering Maynard and Diaz are coming off of losses.

A fight for relevancy is really what is being fought over. Many new names are surfacing the lightweight ranks such as Josh Thomson, TJ Grant, and Khabib Nurmagomedov among others. I find it kind of ironic that two “old-school” guys like Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz are fighting eachother for a chance to stay relevant among the barrage of incoming talent. By the way, yes, at this point I would almost consider Maynard and Diaz to be part of the “older-generation” still competing in the UFC today. Maynard and Diaz have no lack of experience, but their skills in the Octagon have been tested to their limits many times.

This bout between Maynard and Diaz should really come down to who has evolved their MMA game the most. We know Diaz struggles against physically stronger opponents who can out-grapple him, and we know that Maynard struggles against accurate strikers who can overwhelm him on the feet. In many ways, these two are perfect match-ups against eachother. Their first bout in the UFC was closely contested, so we’ll see if the second one is too. Either way, it’s a must-win situation for both Maynard and Diaz if they have any hopes of surfacing title contention in the near future.

It should be noted that Maynard has spoken about a possible drop to featherweight if that’s what it takes to further his career. Another bout against Frankie Edgar is much in Gray’s desire, so there is that route to take. However, for Diaz, he doesn’t have many options. His brother is still declared retired, and another rise up to welterweight would almost be certain disappointment. If Diaz can’t put on a big performance here, his chances of glory in the Octagon would seem extinguished.