Two fights into his welterweight career, Demian Maia looks like he could be a legitimate contender to the 170lb strap.
Maia’s win in his debut over Dong Hyun Kim was a bit lackluster due to Kim getting injured during the opening seconds of the bout, so his return to the cage against Rick Story was a huge test for Maia and his welterweight future.
Story is a highly regarded fighter who's beaten some serious competition in the UFC, including former title challenger Thiago Alves, and his strong wrestling base was supposed to give Maia some problems.
Instead, Maia used his underrated takedown ability to get the fight to the floor and deliver a grappling clinic, taking the back of Story and forcing “The Horror” to tap in the first round.
With two quick wins under his belt, Maia is going to take a pretty big step up in competition for his next fight and we’ll truly find out if he is a title threat in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions.
Maia passed the wrestler test against Story, but he’s going to run into many more high caliber grapplers as he works his way up the very tough welterweight ladder.
A perfect opponent might be Jake Ellenberger, who’s trying to get himself back into title contention after a loss to Martin Kampmann in June.
Ellenberger showed a newfound sense of patience in his fight against Jay Hieron last week, and it would be fun to see that patience tested against an aggressive grappler like Maia.
If Ellenberger keeps his head and forces Maia to stay on the feet with him, it will likely end up with a knockout win for “The Juggernaut,” but one slip-up could lead to Maia earning another submission victory.
This just makes sense.
All three of these guys are in a similar place in the division, and since Maia won his fight he should fight the winner of Penn and MacDonald.
If that guy is Penn, we could see one of the best jiu-jitsu battles ever if he goes to the mat with Maia.
If MacDonald gets the nod, Maia has a chance to shut down the hottest prospect in the sport who just took out a legend.
Either way, we win.
Siyar Bahadurzada isn’t a fighter that comes to mind when you mention the welterweight division’s elite, but he could be the toughest test available for Maia in his next fight.
“The Great” came out and proved he belonged when he knocked out Paulo Thiago earlier this year, and a fight with Maia would make sure the top ten of the division would have a new addition.
Usually a loss in a title eliminator will send you falling back down the ladder, but with so many high level fighters in the welterweight division, there isn’t too far to fall.
Maia would make for a fun fight with Martin Kampmann, who seems to love to go after his opponents in their best areas and could probably hang with Maia on the mat for a while.
Hendricks would probably make for the tougher match up, mostly due to his takedown defense and knockout power, but if Maia could get him to the mat things could get very interesting.
If Demian Maia was impressive on Saturday night, Jon Fitch was unbelievable.
Fitch has often been criticized for his wrestling-heavy approach to fighting, but he proved that if his opponent is able to offer him some resistance on the mat he has no problems getting into a war.
It’s not often that Fitch gets into trouble when he’s inside the cage, so when Erick Silva put him in a few tough positions, one had to wonder if Fitch would make a mistake.
To his credit, Fitch showed a tremendous amount of toughness in escaping a very tight rear naked choke, and he won the fight on grit and determination alone.
The timing likely works and Fitch and Maia match up very interestingly as far as styles go, so this fight makes a ton of sense.