In the early days of the UFC, the legendary Royce Gracie proved to one and all that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a superior fighting art.
Possessing all but token striking skills, Royce showed how this mysterious martial art could overwhelm bigger, stronger opponents. Unbelieving crowds watched and marveled at how this rather strange discipline knotted up big, menacing bar-brawler types, making them tap out in submission. That's all it took to emerge victorious in the olden days of the octagon, but that was then.
Today, a successful MMA artist is one who is well-rounded in the various disciplines. Apart from a solid ground game anchored with jiu-jitsu, striking skills (rooted mostly in muay thai) are a must to climb to the top of the MMA ladder.
Enter jiu-jitsu world champion Demian Maia, who has notched five consecutive UFC wins, all via submission. He has displayed the kind of advanced, smooth, world-class jiu-jitsu that has true fight fans shaking their heads in disbelief and dropping their jaws in shock.
So comes the inevitable question: Will this be enough to take him to the top? Can Maia bank on his superior jiu-jitsu alone to catapult him to the top of the 185-lb. heap?
In his last outing at UFC 95, he won over Chael Sonnen via first-round submission. Seen at Maia’s side was Wanderlei Silva, who (presumably) will polish Maia’s stand-up combat.
Similar to Royce, Maia has yet to show a solid on-foot game. How much does he need to develop that area before he can snag Anderson Silva’s belt?
He must be skilled enough to stay on his feet without getting seriously hurt until such time that he can execute a successful take-down. From there, it will be his game.
But then again, the art of jiu-jitsu is no longer a secret, as it was during the heyday of Royce Gracie. Anderson Silva has decent jiu-jitsu capabilties, and so do the other middleweight contenders.
Still, Maia’s brand of jiu-jitsu, as seen in past fights, is off the charts. That smooth take-down and excellent submission move he used in beating Sonnen was the epitome of execution; pure, unadulterated jiu-jitus at its very best.
If he polishes his striking well enough, particularly the defensive aspect, he poses a very serious threat to the "Spider."
The Brazilian prospect must face off with a striker with a solid take-down defense, show that he can take a punch or two, then take the fight to the ground and win in convincing fashion. Perhaps a fight with the likes of Nate Marquardt or Michael Bisping will allow him to show his worth and earn a shot at the seemingly invincible Silva.