UFC 170: Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia both saw impressive winning streaks come to an end in their most recent outings. At UFC 170, a return to the title-shot conversation will be up for grabs when the welterweights meet on the main card.
Competing on the same fight card as Tristar Gym teammate Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald had a chance to earn a spot in a championship bout at UFC 167. However, Robbie Lawler was able to gain an edge over the Canadian on the scorecards and now finds himself scheduled to meet Johny Hendricks in a battle for the vacant 170-pound strap at UFC 171.
Picking up three straight wins after moving to the welterweight division, Maia appeared to be on his way to another shot at UFC gold. However, the Brazilian suffered a setback against Jake Shields in October, as he also fell in a close decision.
As MacDonald and Maia look to get back into the win column, here is a look at how the two match up in all areas.
Demian Maia's striking has come a long way, but he's still not able to do much more than hold his own when standing with top-notch competition.
When he did stand with Jake Shields, Maia was kept on the outside with jabs and kicks. Although many opponents might be hesitant to throw kicks at Maia, Shields showed that the Brazilian is not too skilled at catching kicks and countering them with takedowns.
Maia's favorite attack is his left overhand. However, he does little to set it up. At UFC Fight Night 29, Shields was able to stay outside the range of Maia's left hand before stepping in with lead-leg kicks as the former UFC middleweight title challenger followed through on his punches.
In recent fights, MacDonald has displayed an even more effective jab than Shields owns.
He almost exclusively used it to defeat BJ Penn and Jake Ellenberger, and the Canadian is likely to use the jab regularly on Maia. A reach advantage of more than four inches should allow "Ares" to pepper his opponent from the outside at will.
Clearly the better striker in this matchup, MacDonald will want to use his striking as a form of takedown defense as well. By maintaining distance, he can limit good opportunities for Maia to take this fight to the ground.
In most Demian Maia fights, all takedowns attempts are coming from one side only.
The Brazilian is one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners to enter MMA, so not many opponents are interested in going to the ground with him. Prior to his bout with Shields, Maia went three straight fights without facing a takedown.
While Rory MacDonald has never been submitted, he's not likely to make a concerted effort to take Maia down. Because he has a noticeable advantage in the striking department, the Canadian has no reason to risk rolling with such a decorated grappler.
Since he'll be interested in keeping this fight standing, MacDonald will need to focus on preventing Maia from closing the gap.
Although he didn't pay for his mistakes in that matchup, MacDonald did allow BJ Penn to work inside multiple times at UFC on Fox 5. Most notably, he made the mistake of throwing a kick with his back to the fence in the opening round—a gaffe that nearly led to a takedown for the former UFC champion.
Maia is probably going to be the only fighter who will be looking to take this fight to the ground frequently. If MacDonald allows the Brazilian to get in on his legs, he will find himself on the canvas quickly.
Forget the welterweight division—Demian Maia is one of the best grapplers in MMA.
Dong Hyun Kim never scored fewer takedowns than an opponent inside the Octagon until he met Maia. Rick Story had never been submitted until he met Maia, and Jon Fitch hadn't been dominated on the ground like he was by Maia since losing to Georges St-Pierre in 2008.
While Rory MacDonald has had his own triumphs on the canvas, he is far more prone to mistakes than Maia when rolling.
In the third round of his bout with Robbie Lawler, MacDonald was looking to finish a takedown that could have sealed a decision victory. Instead, "Ares" did not establish his base, allowing Lawler to roll through.
To make matters worse, he turned away from Lawler and gave up his back, instead of turning into the Strikeforce veteran, which would have allowed him to work for the takedown or stand. This was one of the multiple mistakes the Canadian made in a pivotal third round that ultimately cost him a win.
If MacDonald makes similar errors against Maia, he could suffer even worse consequences. Giving up one's back against the Brazilian is a good way to suffer a submission loss.
Both fighters are making relatively average turnarounds, as Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia both competed during the fall.
While ring rust won't be a factor for either man, conditioning could be a problem. Both have had some problems in maintaining activity in the later rounds. MacDonald faded in a UFC 115 bout with Carlos Condit and was stopped in the third round, while Maia left the middleweight division after looking exhausted in a matchup with Chris Weidman.
It's hard to say which fighter has the better gas tank, but MacDonald seems to have done a better job at pacing himself in recent outings.
If Demian Maia finds a way inside on Rory MacDonald, he can dominate this fight on the ground.
Accomplishing that will be much easier said than done, as the Canadian has only allowed one takedown in the past two years. A big reason for that is MacDonald's ability to keep opponents on the outside with his jabs and diverse kicking arsenal.
While taking down Jon Fitch, Rick Story and Dong Hyun Kim was impressive, Maia was facing opponents who were willing to clinch with him in those matchups. MacDonald will be focused on maintaining distance on Saturday.
Lacking good feints or head movement, Maia is likely to be a sitting duck for MacDonald's jabs. As long as he circles well to prevent being cornered, the Canadian should be able to remain upright and return to the win column with another tactical outing.
MacDonald defeats Maia by unanimous decision.