By Dwight Wakabayashi
Clay (The Carpenter) Guida is looking to keep his career out of the hands of the judges.
The 31-year-old UFC veteran is looking to push some people around and knock some people out as he ventures into his new featherweight division, starting this weekend with Japanese contender Hatsu Hioki on the undercard of UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago.
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Guida has fought in the UFC’s lightweight division since 2006 compiling a 9-7 record against the very best in the world. In his last two fights he lost a close Fight of the Night decision with current champion Benson Henderson and had a controversial split decision loss to contender Gray Maynard.
Many fans and media were frustrated with Guida’s game plan against Maynard, where he chose to stay elusive and out of range for most of the fight, instead of going straight into the fire like he has in his most memorable fights against Roger Huerta and Diego Sanchez.
Despite his longevity in the sport and popularity around the world you would think Guida would be happy and content staying at the weight he has known for his whole career. But he sees it quite differently.
“Looking at my record in the UFC, 9-7, it just doesn’t sit well, and I demand more out of myself and I know I can do better and always improve,” he told Thomas Gerbasi of UFC.com. “People see my fighting style, and if they’ve seen my fights, that record could be 15-1 just like that. I think there’s only really one fight that I went out there and it wasn’t even a close fight, and that was the Kenny Florian fight (in 2009), which helped change my career in a positive way.
“So looking at it as a whole and in the bigger picture of my career, after the Maynard fight I spoke with my brother (fellow fighter Jason Guida), who is a huge influence in my life and my career, and he said it might be that time to cut those extra pounds and get down to ’45 and start pushing people around and start knocking dudes out. He said ‘You had some close fights, you stunned Gray a few times and wobbled Ben, but we’ve gotta start finishing these guys.’ So I thought about that, and let it soak in for a while.”
“We fought the best in the lightweight division and got very close to the top,” he continued. “We’ve had a couple of chances for a No. 1 contendership or whatever you want to call it, and had some Fight of the Night bonuses and Fight of the Years. We’ve been all over the place and it’s been a fun road, and the road is gonna continue with more success at featherweight.”
Guida will be welcomed into the division by Japanese contender Hioki, who has long been considered a top-five featherweight in the world. Hioki was on a six-fight winning streak before he was handed an upset loss in his last fight with rising star Ricardo Lamas.
Guida’s buzz saw, wrestling style will be a tough task for anyone in the division and Hioki will need to use takedown defence and submissions off his back as his keys to victory. Hioki is very smart and crafty with his game but Guida is used to holding his own against much bigger fighters, and I have a tough time seeing Hioki win this one.
If Guida can get a win in his debut, he immediately puts himself amongst the contenders in a fairly shallow division. A fight against Chad Mendes or Chan Sung Jung could be a possibility in the spring.
Since it is his debut at a new weight, Guida may get a mulligan if he loses to Hioki, but it will put him in a very tough position and the lowest spot he has ever been in his career.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.