Daniel Vreeland takes a deep dive into one of UFC Vegas 37‘s prelim fights. This week: Tony Gravely vs Nate Maness.

The Stats

Tony GravelyNate “Mayhem” Maness
21-6 (2-1 UFC)13-1 (2-0 UFC)
Martinsville, VirginiaHenderson, Kentucky
5’5” – 69” Reach5’10” – 72” Reach
American Top TeamTAG MMA
Tony Gravely vs Nate Maness – Tale of the Tape

Leading Up

After picking up a ground and pound victory of Ray Rodriguez on the Contender Series, Tony Gravely was thrust right into the thick of things in the bantamweight division. The UFC paired him with Brett Johns straight out of the gate, but it proved to be too much. He dropped that fight by submission with a rear-naked choke from the Welshman. Gravely then took off the majority of 2020 and came back in November. This time they gave him someone with roughly the same big show experience in Geraldo de Freitas, and Gravely got in the win column. He most recently picked up a KO win over Anthony Birchak to move him to 2-1. That’s a short UFC resume, but it’s notable that Gravely has faced a number of UFC foes outside the promotion. He holds wins over Kris Moutinho and Drako Rodriguez, and has also lost to the likes of Merab Dvalishvili and Pat Sabatini.

Maness has similarly been in the UFC for a short period of time. He made his debut in August of 2020, where he was supposed to face Ray Borg. Borg was forced to withdraw from the fight, leaving Maness with tough wrestler Johnny Munoz for his debut. Munoz attempted 16 takedowns over the course of the fight, but only scored two. Maness took the unanimous decision and followed up that win with a fight roughly four months later against Luke Sanders. Not only would he go on to beat Sanders, but he finished him with a rear-naked choke in the second round. Since then, Maness has been on the shelf. He was briefly booked to fight Gravely back in April but was forced to withdraw from the fight.

Styles Make Fights

Gravely

Traditionally, Gravely has done his best striking work once his opponent’s already on the ground or clinched against the cage. If you watch any of his regional circuit work, he made his bread his with ground and pound. Particularly damaging ground and pound at that. His strikes from range have clearly progressed since coming to the UFC. He’s improved his kicking arsenal, but still primarily uses single kicks outside of a combination when he’s leading the dance. He is a bit more composed when he is countering. He uses that low leg kick as a follow-up to a check hook or a short punch combination. For this reason, he is more dangerous when he doesn’t go first. In fact, his recent knockout of Anthony Birchak was a lead hook counter to a low kick.

When it comes to grappling, volume is the name of the game for Gravely. He loves getting in on takedowns against the cage. But, he isn’t afraid to back away and re-shoot if he doesn’t like the grip or positioning he’s getting. This is part of why you see such high takedown attempts in his stats. It’s also why his takedown percentage is somewhat low (54% over 3 UFC fights and 1 Contender Series clash). Those stats are misleading though because when he wants a takedown, he often gets it eventually. This includes against opponents with strong wrestling games like Brett Johns. The one drawback to his wrestling style is that it can be very taxing on Gravely, and tends to make him a bit less dangerous as the fight wears on.

Mayhem

On the feet, Maness is much more reserved in terms of output. He works well from range using a number of weapons that include a decent jab and some solid leg kicks. The most interesting facet of his game for him in this fight is his stance switches. He seamlessly moves between orthodox and southpaw and appears to have the same weapons from both sides. He seems to favor the big body kick when orthodox. and the low leg kick from southpaw. But the punches are pretty identical in either stance. This also helps him circle off the cage when backed up in a way where he is still dangerous and his opponent is not.

Since coming to the UFC, Maness has mostly used his wrestling to keep the fight on the feet. He digs underhooks exceptionally well to stuff takedowns against the cage. He did score a nice body lock takedown on Luke Sanders. That eventually led to a rear-nake choke finish, but apart from that, he has preferred to work on the feet. Before coming to the UFC, that wasn’t really the case though. Like Gravely, he has a solid ability to reshoot when he wants that takedown. He also has shown some great high angle slams on double leg attempts in the middle of the cage – and he did so against a high level of competition in TKO (a prominent organization in Canada where he was a triple champion). Since he comes from a wrestling background, I expect there is more we haven’t seen from him in the UFC. I think the opponents he’s faced, which both had wrestling bases of their own, largely have influenced that.

The Clash

This fight may very well come down to the success of Gravely in his takedown attempts. Because Maness is again being faced with a wrestle-heavy opponent, I think we’re going to see him attempt to lean on his striking and try to keep it standing. I doubt that Gravely will have that same plan. This will not be one of those fights that early takedown success for Gravely will spell the end for Maness. If Maness makes Gravely work to take him down early or gets up fairly quickly, we could see Gravely start to fade and the success rate begin to fall further. Should that be the case, look for Maness to find more success as the fight goes on.

If Maness is able to neutralize the wrestling acumen of Gravely, he’s going to be the more successful striker. His varied looks will make it harder for Gravely to counter as Maness will be in a different place each time he throws. There is always the chance that Gravely’s big power lands and he’s able to put Maness away that way. However, the chances of that happening fade with every minute that the fight goes on and every failed takedown attempt.

Final Verdict

Although I expect some success against the cage for Gravely, I think Maness is going to do enough to make him work. His length, paired with his ability to get an underhook in nearly every situation, is going to make it hard for Gravely to get the quick ones he wants. As a result, I see Gravely losing steam, possibly as early as the second round. Maness can be sneaky with his submission skills with d’arce chokes and guillotines, which we haven’t gotten to see in the UFC yet. My prediction is that he tires Gravely out early and then finishes him on a bad shot. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it with one of those submissions or with some top game ground and pound on a reversal. It’s also worth noting that Maness is betting off as a +175 underdog.

Daniel "Gumby" Vreeland has been an MMA writer for over a decade. He currently hosts The Top Turtle Podcast and is a member of the UFC's ranking panel.