With the breaking news this week about the injury to Vitor Belfort a lot was speculated about who could fight Anderson Silva at UFC 112.
Many fighters were suggested as possible opponents and a fight at 205lbs was many reporters preferred option with Randy Couture at the top of their list. I wrote a piece on the subject "Anderson Silva Must defend his Middleweight Title" which shared my thoughts on what should happen.
Since then the UFC has announced that Demian Maia will be the fighter to step in and challenge for the Middleweight title at UFC 112. This is good news because title's need to be defended and as my last article suggested, its been nearly 18 months since Anderson defended his title.
However the UFC has panicked and Demian Maia should not have been the fighter to replace Vitor Belfort.
Maia who is fresh off a win over Dan Miller at UFC 109 is a great prospect and unquestionably top 5 in the division. That being said, it does not make him the right choice to challenge the Champion on such short notice.
His 20 second KO loss to Nate Marquardt is still fresh in the memory and the UFC is potentially wasting a great talent in a shallow division. Maia's stand up is no where near the level of Silva's and despite his impressive Jui-jitsu, Maia is not ready for this fight and especially not on short notice.
The UFC are going to have to rush to promote this new fight and Maia as a credible challenger to the title. Are fans really going to buy into it?
A likely loss for Maia would mean that he has faced the top 2 fighters in the division and lost, leaving him with an uncertain future and a long path to getting anywhere near the title again. It would also mean the UFC has risked wasting a potential star in a division that is crying out for fighters that fans can get behind.
The risking of Maia seems like a panicked decision by the UFC as there were a number of options that could have been used.
If Maia will be ready for this fight, then why wouldn't Chael Sonnen be? Yes they both have medical suspensions but, I haven't heard anything to suggest that Sonnen's injuries were any worse then Maia's. If the cut that Sonnen suffered at the hands of Nate Marquardt's elbow is the issue then move the fight back.
Yes you read that right, the fight with Sonnen should have been made and moved to the UFC 113 or 114 cards. UFC 112 still has a solid main event with BJ Pen defending his title and by doing it now it would have allowed both fighters to adjust their training camps accordingly. Its the most logical solution that never seem to be mentioned by the MMA media.
If the UFC were that determined to keep an Anderson Silva title defense on the UFC 112 card in Abu Dhabi, which it appeared. Then why not Nate Marquardt? Yes he just lost to Chael Sonnen at UFC 109.
However before the fight he was and still is regarded by many as the No.2 fighter in the division. He was over looked in the first place when Vitor Belfort got the nod to challenge the Champion. He just recently KO'd Demian Maia and as educated followers know he suffered little damage and still managed to almost win the fight against Sonnen with a deep submission attempt in the third round of that fight at UFC 109.
The problem of course would be marketing the fight to casual fans, but I would still take Marquardt vs Silva then Maia vs Silva at this stage.
Another option would have been to wait until after this weekends UFC 110. With Michael Bisping and Wanderlei Silva fighting a potential challenger could easily have emerged from Australia. Imagine if Wanderlei KO's Bisping in 30 seconds (highly possible), he would be a perfect challenger. No damage received and an easy hype after a big KO! Just a thought.
Other viable names were also thrown around as contenders such as Akiyama and Alan Belcher. In reality Maia is probably a better bet then either of them but its worth remembering more options despite the obvious always exist!
This of course is all subjective as the fight has been made. But one has to wonder if with a little bit more patience or rational thought a better solution may have arrived for the UFC then rushing a Maia vs Anderson title fight at UFC 112.