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Maynard captures contentious main event

The war of words between fighters typically ends about a day before the fight.

The trash talk between Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz really didn’t heat up until the opening bell sounded.

Maynard outlasted Diaz to win a split decision and remain unbeaten in the main event of an Ultimate Fighting Championship card Monday night in Fairfax, Va.

The bout featured both fighters talking and gesturing at one another throughout.

Maynard, a wrestler by nature, got drawn into a standup battle with Diaz. It was the sixth straight decision victory for the Las Vegan, who improved to 10-0 as a professional.

“The game plan and technique went out the window once I saw that dude across from me, and I just wanted to throw,” Maynard said in the cage after the fight. “I saw his face and I wanted to fight. It was stupid, but I hope you guys enjoyed it.”

The stage was set for the contentious battle from the opening staredown when both fighters refused to touch gloves. They could be seen jawing and challenging each other to bring the fight forward.

It was an odd strategy for Maynard, but he earned the favor of two of the judges to get the win. He won 30-27 on one card and 29-28 on another, while losing 29-28 on the third.

Maynard will now wait to hear from the UFC whether he is selected as the next challenger to BJ Penn’s lightweight title. Penn is expected to defend the belt in April.

Evan Dunham, who trains at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas with Maynard, also remained unbeaten by submitting Efrain Escudero with an armbar in the third round.

Escudero dominated the first round and Dunham appeared to be in trouble, but he was able to turn the tables in the final two rounds.

Dunham got the fight to the ground and used his superior jiu-jitsu skills to hand Escudero his first loss. Escudero’s arm appeared to be injured as he was slow to tap after Dunham had the armbar locked in tightly.

Amir Sadollah was the only former winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” to win on the card as both Escudero and Diaz lost.

Sadollah used a combination of kicks, knees and punches to win a unanimous decision over Brad Blackburn, 30-27 on all three scorecards.

Aaron Simpson also remained unbeaten with a split-decision victory over Tom Lawlor.

Chris Leben and 20-year-old Rory MacDonald were among the undercard fighters to earn victories.

• UFC ON VERSUS — The UFC made official a March 21 card in Broomfield, Colo., featuring a main event of Jon Jones against Brandon Vera. The card will be the organization’s first to air on Versus (Cable 38).

It will be one of two live UFC events on the network in 2010, which was part of a renewal deal signed with the UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, to continue airing World Extreme Cagefighting cards on Versus.

The main event features two light heavyweights looking to rebound from a loss. Jones was disqualified against Matt Hamill because several elbows he landed during an extended barrage were deemed illegal and Hamill could not continue. Vera is off a controversial decision loss to Randy Couture.

• FRANCA RETIRES — Former UFC competitor and WEC lightweight champion Hermes Franca has decided to retire from mixed martial arts. The 35-year-old made the announcement after being knocked out by Eric Wisely on a small card Friday night in Des Moines, Iowa.

Once considered one of the top lightweights, Franca saw his career decline rapidly after a decision loss to Sean Sherk for the UFC lightweight title in July 2007 and a subsequent positive test for steroids.

After serving a 12-month suspension, Franca went 1-1 in two fights before a DUI arrest and a torn knee ligament derailed his UFC career.

• BEST OF PRIDE — Fans of the defunct Pride Fighting Championships will have the opportunity to see old fights from the organization on a new weekly series on Spike (Cable 29).

“Best of Pride” will air weekly at 10 p.m. on Friday, beginning this week.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509.

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