UFC 153: Jon Fitch and Demian Maia Serve Notice to the Welterweight Division

James MacDonald@@JimMacDonaldMMAFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

Courtesy of MMA Weekly
Courtesy of MMA Weekly

It came as no surprise when Anderson Silva bagged most of the headlines during the post-mortem of UFC 153, but the performances of Jon Fitch and Demian Maia offer a more meaningful narrative, particularly as pertains to the UFC’s welterweight division.

Erick Silva was supposed to be the next big thing in the 170-pound weight class—and he might yet be—and it seemed as though Jon Fitch was little more than meat for the beast.

The AKA veteran’s last performance inside the cage could scarcely have gone worse. Knocked out within a few seconds of the opening bell, some speculated as to whether Fitch had already seen his best days.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, it’s fair to say that rumours of Jon Fitch’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the former welterweight title challenger looked better than ever on Saturday night.

More shocking still was how utterly compelling his bout with Erick Silva was.

According to some, Jon Fitch fights were occasionally prescribed by neurologists as a cure for fatal familial insomnia. Yet based on how absorbing his most recent contest was, his future bouts may be better suited to treating narcolepsy.

One could argue that Silva’s ability to compete with the 34-year-old’s usual smothering tactics was responsible for making the fight so engrossing, but it is worth pointing out that Fitch was vocal about his intention to win the fight of the night bonus.

Make no mistake, his performance was no fluke.

Crucially, it was also incredibly effective. His usual M.O. of takedowns and pitter-patter punches was replaced by a more forceful, aggressive style that was designed to render the judge’s scorecards irrelevant.

He may still have some way to go before he earns another crack at the gold, but Jon Fitch is at least back on the right path.

Perhaps more surprising than Fitch’s heroics was Demian Maia’s swift dismissal of Rick Story, one of the toughest “outs” in the welterweight division.

The Brazilian’s long overdue cut to 170 pounds has thus far proven to be profitable. No longer faced with larger opposition, he has had a much easier time securing takedowns—even against a tough wrestler like Story—in order to bring his potent BJJ game into play.

Joe Rogan has in the past mocked Maia’s lack of natural athletic ability, suggesting that he “moves like the whitest guy on Earth.” While this may be true—if a touch cruel—the size advantage he enjoys at welterweight in many ways negates his physical limitations.

The multiple-time BJJ world champion has the kind of submission game that is equivalent to Anderson Silva’s striking. In other words, if he is able to dictate where the fight takes place, your chances of going home with a win bonus are slimmer than the cast of America’s Next Top Model.

It goes without saying that matching Jon Fitch and Demian Maia up would make for an extremely intriguing contest.

There are clearly some compelling storylines to explore should Joe Silva decide to put that particular fight together.

While Fitch has an unshakable belief in his grappling, one wonders whether he would, for the first time in his career, voluntarily engage in a kickboxing match.

Would Maia be able to dictate the terms of the fight against such a dominant MMA wrestler, even with his size advantage?

Whatever direction the UFC takes with Fitch and Maia, there is no denying that both have made their presence known in the 170-pound division.