Maia vs. Shields: Breaking Down Battle of Elite Grapplers

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Maia vs. Shields: Breaking Down Battle of Elite Grapplers
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

The skills of Demian Maia and Jake Shields are underappreciated. In a sense, their grappling and submission mastery are like instrumental jazz music; you either get it or you don’t. Unfortunately, many fans of the sport don’t get it and thus neither man receives the credit they deserve for long successful careers.

Maia and Shields are a combined 46-10-1 in their careers with a total of 19 victories by submission. Does that mean someone is tapping out on Wednesday night at UFC Fight Night 29 in Barueri, Sao Paulo, Brazil? More than likely not.

 

Submitting a Submission Master

Most submissions specialist on Maia's and Shields’ level are nearly impossible to submit. True to this concept, neither Shields or Maia have ever lost a fight this way. As good as both men are at locking in maneuvers to make their opponent say "uncle," it isn’t likely either falls victim to a trap. 

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What happens if we're "treated" to five rounds of mat chess? Even the most accepting grappling fan may get a little sleepy as Shields and Maia posture on the canvas. Unfortunately, this is probably the type of fight we’re going to see.

I have a ton of respect for Maia and Shields, but sometimes a matchup of two good fighters doesn’t produce an exciting fight. This will one of those bouts. Though I’m obviously not optimistic, I’m hoping for one or both men to take an alternative approach.

 

Settling the Grappling Stalemate With Their Fists

At some point, Maia and/or Shields could realize they have no chance to gain a clear advantage over the other on the ground. If this happens, fans would rejoice at the sight of the men going to Plan B, aka a standup battle.

This isn’t either man’s forte as both men have scored just three wins by KO in their career.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

The last time Maia won by TKO was in July 2012, but there is a caveat to that stoppage. His opponent Dong Hyun Kim was stopped because of a rib injury. A similar occurrence happened in May 2007 when Maia beat Ryan Stout when the latter suffered a shoulder injury.

In fact, the only time Maia has ever stopped an opponent with a strike came way back in his first recorded professional fight in 2001. Maia scored a technical knockout win over a fighter named Raul Sosa, who according to Sherdog.com, has never fought again.

As for Shields’ striking resume, it isn’t much better. However, at least all three of his KO/TKO wins are legitimate. He hasn’t finished an opponent with strikes since 2007, but he does have aggressive ground-and-pound if he gains top position. 

If somehow this bout comes down to striking, Shields will have the advantage.

 

Who Wins?

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Even though this fight is more apt to stay grounded—in more ways than one—Shields’ ability to obtain top position will resonate with the judges. While both men are specialists, Maia is more of a one-trick pony. Shields will win a grapple fest that is best suited for purest of the discipline.

Apparently, UFC Undisputed 3 the video game agrees with me. 

This simulation predicts Shields will win the bout as well. You can watch the real bout Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

 

Follow me for musings on MMA, boxing, the NBA, the WWE and sports video games.

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