Demian Maia has looked like a man on a mission since dropping to 170 pounds.
The former middleweight title challenger has out-grappled judo black belt Dong Hyun Kim, become the first fighter to stop the scrappy Rick Story and beat long-time welterweight contender Jon Fitch at his own game on the ground.
In doing so, Maia has already become a top-10 UFC welterweight and is starting to look like one of the division's biggest threats to champion Georges St-Pierre. A world-class jiu-jitsu practitioner with solid wrestling, the Brazilian could present St-Pierre with the most well-rounded ground game he's seen.
All this momentum he's riding, and UFC matchmakers have handed Maia a fight with Josh Koscheck.
Yeah, Koscheck is a big name in the welterweight division and he's still a top-10 fighter, but this matchup is an unnecessary step backward for the surging Maia.
Koscheck is coming off a knockout loss to Robbie Lawler, who had lost five of his prior eight fights heading into that bout. Prior to being beaten by Lawler, Koscheck was defeated by Johny Hendricks. Yet, here he is, barely clinging onto the No. 10 spot in the 170-pound rankings and still being given an opportunity to meet one of the hottest contenders in the welterweight class.
A UFC veteran who has paid his dues, Koscheck deserves big fights, but there are plenty of popular welterweight fighters coming off losses that could have made more sense as opponents than Maia. Martin Kampmann and Nate Marquardt both come to mind.
Maia deserves a better fight than this.
Coming off a dominant win over Jon Fitch, Maia should be fighting a top-five welterweight, not a struggling former teammate of his most recent opponent with a very similar set of skills.
With Rory MacDonald set to fight Jake Ellenberger and Hendricks in line to challenge St-Pierre, the options were limited for UFC matchmakers in determining Maia's next fight. In a way, that should have made the decision even easier for them, though.
The only top-five welterweight not locked into a matchup at the moment is Carlos Condit. Although—like Koscheck—he has lost two straight fights, he took elite welterweights St-Pierre and Hendricks the distance in entertaining contests.
It's possible the UFC is looking to set Condit up with a rematch against Nick Diaz, but I'm not so sure that's a fight most fans want to see, considering the chess match that the first meeting between those two fighters turned into. And with Diaz not even guaranteed to return to the Octagon, it's definitely not a matchup that's worth holding out for at Maia's expense.
An impressive win over Condit could have set Maia up for a title shot. Instead, Maia finds himself in a matchup that does little for him even if he wins in an incredible way.
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