UFC 156: Demian Maia vs. Jon Fitch Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Maia defeated Rick Story in a quick submission victory, while Fitch derailed Erick Silva's bid to become the next big thing in the division with a decision win.
A win for either man could put them in the mix at 170 pounds in 2013.
While Fitch picked up his first win since his quick KO loss to Johny Hendricks, Maia is 2-0 in the welterweight division with two impressive victories. Defeating a guy like Fitch would potentially move Maia in position for a title shot.
Here is how the fight between the two talented welterweights breaks down.
It has been talked about over and over in each of his recent fights, but Maia's striking has improved drastically.
With that being said, the advantage will still go to Fitch.
Maia has looked better standing, but Fitch has been doing it longer and against the elite at welterweight for years. While the fight may not be a technical masterpiece, it will be Fitch who holds the advantage standing.
Neither man is a master striker or wants to keep it standing, but all too often do we find two grapplers stalemating and slugging it out.
When these two 170-pounders grab hold of one another, that is when things get interesting.
Maia is not a great wrestler, but the closer he is, the better his takedowns are. He is one of the best in MMA at takedowns from the clinch.
Let's not forget what Maia did to Chael Sonnen.
Fitch is arguably the most expert grinder in all of MMA. He utilizes his wrestling effectively and positions himself well from on top. However, if Fitch is the one to take it down, everyone knows of Maia's expertise on the ground.
While Fitch has not been on the mat with anyone of the caliber of Maia, it is still hard to believe he will not be able to do what he has always done, given his body of work.
There will of course be dangers in grappling with Maia, but the totality of his abilities give him the edge.
Fitch is known as being unchokable—even Erick Silva failed to choke him out at UFC 153.
With that being said, Maia is not Silva or any other fighter who has tried in the past.
If Maia is able to apply a choke, he will finish Fitch.
Throughout his career, Fitch has displayed tremendous submission defense. That will need to continue to be on point when they meet in early 2013.
This is a no-brainer. Maia is the submission expert.
Fitch's X-Factor: Be Smart on the Ground
Most will agree that this fight will probably be contested on the mat for the most part, and Fitch needs to stay mindful of the dangers that await there.
He has consistently been a great grinder throughout his UFC career. That has not been popular, but it has worked. When back on the ground against Maia, he will have to avoid making that small mistake. He has to avoid giving Maia that one tiny opening to capitalize on.
Maia's X-Factor: Avoid Being on Bottom
The former middleweight title contender cannot afford to be beneath Fitch for the full 15. He would be better off trying to make it a kickboxing bout if he cannot avoid being taken down.
It does not look good to the judges, and Fitch is great on top.
If Maia is able to take Fitch down from the clinch, that is his best route to victory. While it will be difficult to submit Fitch, it will still be more beneficial to score the points for the takedown.
Maia cannot let this become just another Fitch fight.
This will be one of the most intriguing fights in all of 2013, and thankfully we will get it in early February.
Fitch's ability to defend submissions and to embrace the grind makes this look like it could be a typical Jon Fitch fight.
However, I don't think it will be.
Entering UFC 153, Fitch knew he had to be more exciting (via MMAWeekly.com):
Priorities have changed and things I’ve had to accept. I think I was kind of just stubborn with wanting this sport to just be a sport kind of like an amateur sport. Well, it’s not, it’s an entertainment industry and at the end of the day, the people who get the opportunity are the people who sell tickets. It doesn’t matter who you beat, it might matter how you beat them, but if people see you as boring and you don’t sell tickets, you’re not going to get opportunities.
And he was exciting. It also put him in a bit of trouble.
I expect it will again at UFC 156, and this time it will cost him a win. Maia will find one small opportunity to submit Fitch and move closer to a title shot. It is a long shot to predict a submission victory over Fitch, but I am willing to step out on that limb.
Fitch will tap for the first time under the UFC banner.
Prediction: Maia defeats Fitch via submission in the second round