By definition, a gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something. One such example is an academic admission advisor. These people play a vital role in every student’s life; they look at the qualifications, such as test scores, grades, and athletic ability, and determine the student’s future at that academic institution.
Whereas an academic admission representative is regarded with respect and reverence as a gatekeeper, the opposite is typically true in the athletic arena.
A gatekeeper in ultimate fighting is a skillful and well regarded fighter, but does not possess the top tier talent of a contender. Mixed martial arts' gatekeepers compete against the best in the world, yet receive little to no press and are paid a fraction of what contenders make. These gatekeepers are worthy enough to compete, but lack the overall ability to be champion.
So, with the gatekeeper definition clearly established, is the UFC lightweight mainstay Clay “The Carpenter” Guida a gatekeeper?
With an overall MMA record of 27-11, Clay Guida has earned three Fight of the Night, one Submission of the Nightbonus, as well as Fight of the Year accolades in 2009 for his fight with Diego Sanchez.
Fighting out of the Jackson Submission Fighting Camp, “The Carpenter” has never been knocked out in 38 professional fights. With a pedestrian 7-5 UFC record, Guida’s biggest victories are against Nate Diaz and Mac Danzig; neither of whom is regarded in the top ten of the lightweight division.
Conversely, “The Carpenter” has been defeated by a number of top lightweight contenders including Kenny Florian, Diego Sanchez, Roger Huerta, and Tyson Griffin.
The first Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, Clay lost that title to Gilbert Melendez in his initial title defense, never again winning a major championship.
Guida is known as being a gamer. He regards his fights with the utmost professionalism, preparing to compete and win each and every time he enters the octagon. Possessing a solid wrestling foundation with the highest level of conditioning, he fights at a relentless pace from start to finish.
Overall, his fight skills enable Clay to stand and trade in the center of the octagon, wrestle on the mat, and roll with the best Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the world.
Good but not great at any of the facets of ultimate fighting, Guida lacks dominance as a fierce striker, or the wizardry in the ground game needed to instill fear in his opponents with his Jiu-Jitsu brilliance, or the physical prowess to aggressively manhandle the competition.
In contrast, the top Lightweights in the UFC are excellent at all facets of the fight game and also excel in at least one dimension. For example, current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar is a very good boxer with excellent head movement and an innate ability to attack at various angles. Additionally, his opponent at UFC 125, Gray Maynard, is a nationally accomplished amateur wrestler with dynamite in his right hand.
Unlike Edgar and Maynard, who can be securely confident in at least one element of their fight game, Guida’s talent lacks that definitive domination over his opponents.
This author admires and respects Clay Guida and his abilities. Unfortunately, “The Carpenter” does not possess the overriding talent to be a top tier fighter in the UFC Lightweight division.
Guida will continue to excite the fans and impress the UFC brass with his relentless pace inside the octagon and his unrivaled work ethic in preparation for his fights. But Clay Guida’s mediocre talent as an ultimate fighter will not equate to dominant wins over the best Lightweights in the world.
As much as it pains me to say, Clay “The Carpenter” Guida will one day retire from the UFC known for his impressive head of hair, his tireless pace inside the octagon, and unfavorably as the gatekeeper in the UFC Lightweight division. Clay, please prove me wrong.