Demian Maia will be making his welterweight debut tonight on the main card of UFC 148. He will fight the judo specialist Dong Hyun Kim.
Maia's opponent is the favorite in this fight and for good reason. Kim showed greatly improved striking in his last fight against Sean Pierson, whereas Maia hasn't looked impressive since his close loss to Mark Munoz.
Maia has fought almost exclusively with his standup as of late. Against Santiago he spent the majority of his fight on his feet and won an unimpressive looking victory. He was then content to duel with Chris Weidman in a sloppy boxing affair.
If he tries to outstrike Kim, a fighter with superior movement and a more diverse range of attacks, he will find himself in for a long fight.
If Maia depends on his grappling, the fight could be over rather quickly.
Maia is the best BJJ practitioner in the UFC, bar none. He is better off his back then he is in a striking exchange. There isn't a fighter in the welterweight division who gains an advantage by taking him down.
But that's only completely true because Maia has unspectacular striking. It is foolish for Maia to ignore his greatest strength entirely.
Kim is a skilled grappler, but not fantastically so. He was swept quickly by Condit an reversed instantly by Pierson. Neither of those grapplers can hold a candle to Maia. Kim has found himself taken down by less skilled grapplers than Maia.
Maia needs to remember that he has a tremendous advantage over almost every fighter on the ground and is entitled to use his ground game to win his fights. It's admirable for him to work so persistently on improving his boxing, but abandoning his roots in the process is both unnecessary and foolish.
Maia is 34 years old. As a striker he will never find himself close to taking the welterweight belt. But Maia the grappler just might.
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