While few UFC welterweights can match the grappling prowess of Jake Shields, no 170-pounder has managed to contest the avant-garde ground fighting chops of the surging Demian Maia.
The fourth-ranked Maia has reeled off three straight impressive wins since making the descent to 170, a fruitful decision he made following his loss to Chris Weidman in early 2012.
Along the way, the ADCC champ  quickly disposed of Dong Hyun Kim before easily outgrappling former collegiate wrestlers Rick Story and Jon Fitch.
Despite the obvious risks, a confident and always game Shields plans on establishing his first UFC winning streak by beating Maia at his own game in their main-event bout at UFC Fight Night 29.
In an interview last week with Bleacher Report's Duane Finley, Shields spoke openly about his game plan in his first main-event appearance since getting TKO'd by Jake Ellenberger roughly two years ago.
I think it's a great stylistic fight. We are two of the best Jiu-Jitsu guys out there and I think we are both going to want to use those skills in this fight. I'm going to go out there and try to take him down and submit him, and I expect the same from him. I'm hoping for some great Jiu-Jitsu exchanges, but I'm going to be prepared in the stand-up game as well. I'm ready for all-out war.
It may prove unpopular among fans, but if Shields plans on leaving Brazil victorious, the 34-year-old must utilize his well-rounded grappling arsenal to keep his showdown with Maia standing.
Shields proved in his title bout with Georges St-Pierre at UFC 129 that he can hold his own in the kickboxing department. In fact, he landed 78 significant strikes to St-Pierre's 85 and surprisingly outstruck the longtime champ, 96-92.
St-Pierre, however, essentially earned a unanimous decision in the bout on the strength of his superior wrestling, scoring on two of three takedown attempts and stuffing each of Shields' six shots.
And although he gave up takedowns against Ed Herman, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Jason Miller, Shields, a former collegiate wrestler, explained why he's confident against top-flight grapplers like Maia.
I'm not going to say what happened to Fitch can't happen with me because a guy at Maia's level can make anything happen. I think Fitch is a great opponent and a good grappler so watching Maia dominate him like that was very impressive. But it's something I'm very prepared for. I think my Jiu-Jitsu is a lot better than Fitch's and I mix my wrestling with it. Those are the skills I bring to this fight and I'm super-excited because Maia's last three fights at 170, he looked amazing in all of them. That makes this fight that much more exciting for me.
With submission wins over Robbie Lawler, Mike Pyle and Nick Thompson, Shields, the creator of American Jiu-Jitsu [a blend of wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu] obviously possesses a venomous ground game.
In wins over Dan Henderson and Martin Kampmann, Shields also flashed his gift for blending strikes with shots, scoring four takedowns apiece in back-to-back wins.
And akin to Maia, Shields showed extraordinary top control in workmanlike wins over "Hendo" and "The Hitman."
But if he obliges Maia by engaging in a grapplefest, Shields, an ADCC bronze medalist , could potentially suffer the first submission setback of his 15-year career.
Shields certainly owns one of the best grappling repertoires in the UFC, and the Cesar Gracie standout knows how to employ it. Truth be told, though, Maia is both an artist and a magician on the mat, and at this point, no one in the UFC can play his game better.
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