Shields returned to welterweight with a split-decision win over rising prospect Tyron Woodley. Maia's welterweight run has led him to the No. 4 ranking in the division.
Without doubt, Maia's run has been dominant.
It all began with a quick injury TKO over Dong Hyun Kim. After that bout, he moved on to a quick submission win over Rick Story and a dominant decision against Jon Fitch. Maia has become a serious title contender in the welterweight division.
The October 9 tilt will have a lot of implications on the rankings, but before we get there, this is your head-to-toe breakdown of the welterweight matchup.
Jake Shields is simply OK on the feet, but Maia has been developing a nice stand-up attack.
Maia is definitely more versatile, and he has battled to some effectiveness against the elite strikers. That includes Anderson Silva. Maia simply has more tools on the feet.
Shields will have to rely on basic boxing. That can be effective, but it is unlikely to be enough to take out Maia. The Brazilian can use leg kicks along with his punching, but may choose not to due to fear of a takedown.
Maia has more options.
This is a razor-thin category. Both men have good takedowns.
Shields, however, will get the slight advantage.
Maia's takedowns are nearly unstoppable, but he needs to get the clinch to get them. Shields is also good from the clinch, but he is better than Maia at shooting for the takedown. Shields has a very good single-leg takedown.
That is really the only difference, and Maia is probably better from the clinch. It's a coin-flip, but since Shields has the shot advantage, I'll give him a very slight nod.
The ground game between these two is what everyone wants to see, but it may not be as competitive as everyone expects.
Shields is a very good grappler—one of the best in the division—it's just that he's not on Maia's level.
Maia is one of the finest submission specialists in the world. It is very unlikely that Shields can hang with him on the mat in a pure grappling sense. Shields will have to utilize his fists to open up any holes in Maia's game.
All of that is unlikely. What is likely, if the fight hits the ground, is complete domination from Maia. Even if he fails to submit Shields, he will outclass him on the canvas.
Maia's X-Factor: Pace
Shields has gassed in numerous fights. If Maia can keep a good pace on him, it will happen again, and Maia can easily take the later rounds. This is a 25-minute fight, after all.
Maia has the advantage in most places in this fight, and that means he can afford to push the pace. The tempo of this fight will be key.
Shields' X-Factor: Make It Ugly
Maia has been known to get into slugfests, and even though Maia is the better striker, this could play in to Shields' favor.
If Maia gets dragged into an ugly fight, it helps Shields' chances of a takedown. He can switch levels more easily to complete the takedown against Maia to score points. Shields is also competent on the feet, so he can tag Maia, too.
If he gives Maia space to strike, or allows him to dictate the action, it could be a long night for the American. He needs to make this a grinding, dirty war.
This is Maia's fight to lose. He has the advantage on the feet and on the mat.
Shields will be difficult to stop, but his gas tank has been a question at welterweight in the past. In the 25-minute fight, that will definitely help Maia get a finish.
With Maia's pedigree, it is more likely that he takes Shields down late, when tired, and sinks in a submission. Shields will be more apt to have a mental lapse at that point in the fight. And that's what I think happens.
In the fourth round, Maia will be able to tap out the ever-tough Shields for another quality win at 170 pounds.
Prediction: Maia defeats Shields via submission in the fourth round