UFC 148: Demian Maia vs. Dong Hyun Kim Head-to-Toe Breakdown
After losing to the up-and-coming Chris Weidman at middleweight, Demian Maia feels a move to the welterweight division will be exactly what he needs to be considered a UFC title contender again. In order to prove he's made the right decision, though, Maia will have to overcome a tough test in Dong Hyun Kim in his first bout at 170 pounds.
Kim was also on his way toward title contention before suffering a loss to now-interim champion Carlos Condit in July 2011. However, after bouncing back with a victory over Sean Pierson, Kim is prepared to put himself back on a winning streak at Saturday's UFC 148.
This bout between Maia and Kim is one that could quickly catapult the winner into the mix for a title shot, so let's take a look at which 170-pound fighter has a better chance of picking up the victory.
Demian Maia and Dong Hyun Kim are undoubtedly at their worst when forced to stand, but bouts between grapplers have the tendency to turn into stand-up affairs quite often, so it will be important for both fighters to show improvement in their striking.
Despite dropping to the welterweight division, Maia will be at a four-inch reach disadvantage against Kim. However, Maia's boxing has taken strides in recent fights, as he held his own on his feet against rising middleweight start Chris Weidman.
In his bout with Weidman, Maia was only out-landed by seven significant strikes. According to FightMetric, Maia was also even with Weidman in significant strikes landed through the first two rounds of that bout. Instead, it was Maia's inability to deal with the All-American's wrestling that led to his loss and eventual move to 170 pounds.
During his UFC career, the only high-level striker Kim has been forced to stand with was Carlos Condit, who knocked him out in less than three minutes. On the contrary, Maia had a chance to go five rounds with quite possibly the most dangerous striker in the sport in Anderson Silva.
He doesn't have the power to knock Kim out, but Maia has had more striking experience against elite competition and should be able to at least negate the reach advantage of his opponent.
A judo black belt, Dong Hyun Kim is capable of flooring most welterweights from the clinch. However, his takedown defense isn't nearly as strong as his takedown offense, as "Stun Gun" has been taken to the ground by fighters not especially known for their wrestling or clinch work like T.J. Grant, Matt Brown and Nate Diaz.
Even if Kim is the first to strike with a takedown, he will be dealing with one of the world's top jiu-jitsu practitioners in Demian Maia. The Brazilian is more than comfortable fighting off of his back and would certainly be capable of reversing Kim if he is unable to take the top position before his opponent.
Kim is a large welterweight, but he will still be less overpowering than middleweight fighters such as Chris Weidman and Mark Munoz were against Maia. Unless the first cut to 170 pounds becomes a problem for Maia, he should have the grappling to control where this fight takes place.
Dong Hyun Kim has never been submitted in 18 career fights. If there is one fighter capable of forcing a tap from Kim, though, it would be Demian Maia.
A decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner, Maia has picked up more than half of his MMA victories via submission. Maia hasn't earned a submission victory since his February 2009 win over Chael Sonnen, but he is capable of breaking that drought at any moment.
The numbers and history point toward this fight going to the scorecards. However, if there is a scenario where the bout ends in less than 15 minutes, it likely includes Maia catching Kim in some type of choke.
A move to welterweight will provide a fresh start for the 34-year-old Demian Maia, who is looking to make one more run at a UFC title. At 170 pounds, Maia's high-level grappling will be even more effective and could quickly turn him into a contender.
Whereas Dong Hyun Kim has only recently made a name for himself and begun competing against elite opponents, Maia has experience against several of the best 185-pound fighters in the sport. A renewed focus at welterweight will allow Maia to put that experience to good use against an opponent who doesn't have any clear advantages over him.
Many jiu-jitsu practitioners have weak takedowns in comparison with fighters who come from a wrestling background, but that is not the case for Demia Maia. Maia has taken down opponents with much better takedown defense than Dong Hyun Kim, so he should be able to get this fight where he wants it.
For whatever reason, Maia has had difficulty locking up submissions as of late. Against Kim, who has never been submitted, it will be very hard for Maia to earn his first stoppage win in more than three years.
Still, the former middleweight is an expert grappler and should be able to control the action on the ground. Kim often holds a size advantage over his opponents at welterweight, but that will not be the case against a former 185-pound fighter in Maia.
Maia defeats Kim by unanimous decision.