Demian Maia's torrid pace atop the welterweight division has come to an abrupt halt. The world-renowned submission specialist fell victim to former No. 1 contender Jake Shields last night in Brazil.
The split-decision loss was somewhat uncharacteristic for a grappling guru like Maia, but nonetheless his impressive three-fight win streak since making his welterweight debut has come to an end.
Ultimately, a decision loss doesn't completely knock Maia out of the division's top 10, but it's not going to help his case for a title shot sometime in 2014.
Instead, a man who has already tasted a heartbreaking championship defeat at the hands of Anderson Silva will be forced back to the drawing board. It's a step in the wrong direction for a 35-year-old, but potentially only a minor hiccup for a fighter who has only been finished once in his career.
So who's next for one of the UFC's best jiu-jitsu practitioners? Who can Maia match up with who offers him a chance to win and pad his growing welterweight resume?
Look no further.
As a fellow welterweight who thrives on grabbing his opponents and imposing his strong grappling, Palhares would be an excellent choice for Maia's next opponent.
Both fighters are excellent at utilizing transitions, hip control and guard work, so you can count on a ground war. Now, while that may deter certain fans from watching, it's still a versatile battle that offers some of the best Octagon action around.
A decisive victory over a submission savant like Palhares would certainly instill some confidence into Maia after his recent collapse against Shields. Of course, if he happened to get caught or whittled down by the bigger Brazilian, then Maia would most definitely drop out of the division's top 10.
Even after dropping back-to-back fights to some of the division's most prolific names, Kampmann still possesses enough pizazz and respect to be an outstanding notch on Maia's belt.
It would be a matchup that would not only showcase the Brazilian's ability to get in close on a precise kickboxer with strong hands, but it'd be interesting to see if Maia could muscle down one of the better takedown defenders in the weight class.
Kampmann is also still ranked fairly high in the division, so a finish over him would put Maia right back where he needs to be to contend for a title sometime late next year.
Why not, Diaz?
With speculation swirling about a possible return, albeit an undetermined one at that, Diaz would essentially be a lottery ticket for Maia's title hopes.
A fighter like Diaz commands a certain popularity that only a few athletes in today's MMA have the privilege of showcasing. So even though he hasn't captured a victory inside the Octagon since 2011, the hard-nosed Californian can still promote the heck out of a fight.
If Maia was to ever fight Diaz, an impressive victory would once again supplant him atop the welterweight crop heap. Of course, this is assuming he can escape the penetrating presence of Diaz's suffocating boxing and in-fight antics.
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