Demian Maia, an Abu Dhabi grappling champion and five-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, will replace the injured Vitor Belfort and face off against arguably the most feared striker in UFC history.
“It’s always tough when a top fighter like Vitor Belfort has to pull out of a big title fight, but we have found a high-quality replacement,” said UFC President Dana White at UFC.com. “Top contender Chael Sonnen was not available due to injuries sustained in his fight with Nate Marquardt, so top six middleweight Demian Maia will step in to fight for the title.
"Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia will be a match-up between MMA’s best striker and MMA’s best grappler.”
Maia suffered his own injury and received a medical suspension for it; but apparently, it wasn't enough to keep him out of the fight. Maia's eyelid was split in two during his UFC 109 fight against Dan Miller and was supposed to be suspended until Aug. 6.
So what happened?
Josh Gross of CNNSI posted on his Twitter account: "talked to Keith Kizer about Maia's med suspension. There's no minimum sit-out date, so if a doctor clears him, he's fine to fight April 10."
One has to speculate whether or not Maia's Abu Dhabi connection had anything to do with the selection over Chael Sonnen. But Sonnen very well could have not been able to go, forcing Maia to be the organization's only option.
So will Silva vs. Maia look anything like Silva vs. Leites, a UFC 97 title fight that featured Thales Leites, a BJJ ace in his own right, doing anything in his power not to engage with Silva?
Maia looked game to stand and strike with Miller last week, wanting to showcase his improved striking. But it's hard to imagine that the man who was flattened by Marquardt at UFC 102 in less than 30 seconds will want anything to do with the stand-up of Silva.
With the UFC's hand seemingly forced, it looks as if fans will have to settle on a middleweight title fight between Silva and Maia. Now the question becomes: Will it be less or more competitive then B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar?