Both fighters are attempting to work their way back to a title shot, though this time in a different division for Maia. A win this Saturday night will go a long way toward furthering the ambitions of each, which makes the matchup one of the event's most intriguing.
In a change of pace, rather than predict the winner, I'm going to tell you why you should be supporting Maia. Of course, Fitch will have his supporters, as will Maia. However, if you're feeling indifferent or you're on the fence, keep the following four points in mind leading up to fight night.
Maia vs. Fitch may not be an official title eliminator, but whoever wins will likely be no more than one victory away from getting a crack at Georges St-Pierre's title. In fact, if Jake Ellenberger beats Johny Hendricks at UFC 158, this fight might actually produce the next title challenger.
Should Fitch emerge as that title contender, an eye-rolling pandemic will sweep through the MMA community, leaving none but his staunchest supporters utterly aghast. Not because Fitch is an unlikable or undeserving challenger, but because we've already read that script.
Fitch and GSP fought back in 2008 and there was nothing about that fight that suggested Fitch will ever best St-Pierre, and nothing that has happened since changes that.
We don't need to see Shogun Rua vs. Jon Jones II, nor Urijah Faber vs. Jose Aldo II—we know how it will go down. We don't need to see Fitch vs. St-Pierre II.
Maia, on the other hand, brings some new blood to the welterweight title scene. He poses a new threat in the form of his superb grappling.
We don't know how a Maia welterweight title fight will play out. We may have some guesses, but at least it's not as predictable as Fitch vs. St-Pierre II.
Of course, there could be a new welterweight champion by spring, which makes Fitch a more viable contender than he is right now. However, operating under the assumption that St-Pierre retains his title by defeating Nick Diaz is not so far-fetched.
I'm not ashamed to say that I like Fitch's style, but I seem to be in the minority in that regard.
Indeed, no small number of MMA enthusiasts cringe when Fitch enters the Octagon and proceeds to wear his foe down with a wrestling attack for 15 minutes.
Therefore, in the interest of collective satisfaction, a Maia victory might be what the doctor ordered.
It isn't like we won't see the loser fight again, but the winner will obviously get the higher profile match next time out. With that in mind, if you want to spare Fitch-haters a little grief, root, root, root for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.
It goes without saying, but if you're one of the fans who is less than enamored with Fitch, you should cheer for Maia. Obviously.
As part of his UFC profile, Maia is quoted as saying, "My favorite technique is to submit my opponent without him hurting me or me hurting him."
In a sport that is largely defined by competitors who will do just about anything to appear as macho as possible, doesn't the sweetness of Maia's statement just melt your heart?
If not, can we still agree that it's a refreshing change from the "I don't just want to win, I want to hurt him" statement that is recycled for use at every MMA event?
No-one wants to be taken down by Maia. No-one.
With the exception of Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit, the top of the welterweight division consists mostly of wrestle-first competitors. Many have a lot of tools in their chest, but if one move were to define the division in its contemporary state, that move would have to be the takedown.
Furthermore, beyond Diaz and Condit, there aren't too many dangerous submission specialists in welterweight contendership. There are a few guys that can lock on a hold—Martin Kampmann comes to mind—but none that can end a night at any given moment.
That's how Maia brings what's missing to the top of the welterweight ladder. He's a submission wizard that can put 170-pound fighters who aren't used to dealing with his level of grappling into precarious positions they have yet to encounter.
If you're a fan of inner division diversity, pulling for Maia at UFC 156 is the way to go.