Number one middleweight contender Demain Maia (12-1) recently spoke to members of the press during the UFC 112 media-open workouts in Abu Dhabi, revealing particular strategies and expectations for his impending title fight with middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva (25-4).
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace made no qualms about revealing his game plan to the public; utilize his strengths in submissions to become the newly crowned kingpin of the division, along with being the first man to defeat Silva in the UFC.
“It is no secret that I will try and use my jiu-jitsu to win the fight. I always try and use my jiu-jitsu to win fights. That’s my favorite method of securing victory,” said Maia.
“This fight with Anderson is no different. He is the best fighter in the world, but that doesn’t change my mindset or game plan going into the fight. I will still look to take him down and submit him.”
Some worry that Maia’s approach will be too predictable to render any progressive effectiveness during the fight—a painful flashback of the Silva vs. Leites headlining debacle: Lots of pulling guard, butt-scooting, and absurd soccer kicks.
On the other hand, Maia would be defying universal law if he were to choose a different approach, say one that involves him playing a rigged Russian roulette game on his feet. Sorry Demian, all of your bullets have been put in Silva’s chambers.
Predictable or not, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu second degree black belt will only do what comes natural for a fighter, rely on the element of his game that gives him the greatest advantage—as if Silva’s superior striking really gives Maia an alternative.
Even though the probability is so low of seeing a scenario, where Maia trades with Silva instead of fighting from the ground, it has not prevented the contender from diligently dissecting specific nuances of striking during his training camp.
“I’ve been working on keeping my distance and knowing when I’m in and out of striking range. Striking isn’t just about kicking and punching. It’s far more complex than that,” Maia explained.
“It’s also about timing and range. You can’t lose concentration when you get in range; otherwise you’ll get caught with something and knocked out. You definitely can’t take those kinds of risks against someone like Anderson.”
Like any well-prepared fighter, Maia has clearly covered all bases in camp, but let’s get back to reality. The match can only be won for the underdog if he can dislodge the eight-legged creature from his suspended web and onto the mat.
Nobody is debating whether or not Maia, the Gandalf of the BJJ realm, can submit Silva once on the ground—it is a matter of getting the Spider off his feet.
The only round Anderson has lost in the UFC has come at the hands of Dan Henderson, an Olympic-level wrestler who was able to succeed in taking the Brazilian down during their title fight back at UFC 82. Once on the ground, Henderson lacked the precise jiu-jitsu abilities (that Maia possesses) to fend off Silva’s body triangle and rear-naked choke.
Blend Maia and Henderson’s strong points and you've got the perfect concoction necessary to defeat the middleweight champ. But standing alone, does Maia have Hendo-esque wrestling to take Anderson down? If not, he is in store for a long, long night.
Luckily for Maia, he appears to be well-aware of this dilemma.
“In order to actually take Anderson down, I’ve been working a lot on my wrestling and my takedowns. I know what to do once we get on the floor, but I need to give myself the best opportunity of taking him there. That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time improving my wrestling,” the Brazilian noted.
All is not completely lost for the challenger, a huge underdog on all the betting lines. There is a glimmer of hope beckoning Maia to pull off what would be considered one of the most memorable upsets in the history of the sport.
He is an experienced MMA veteran—with 13 fights and an ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion—who understands how vital a good takedown is to a jiu-jitsu practitioner in the world of mixed martial arts.
He has also avoided letting the judges control the outcome of almost all his bouts by putting away his opponents.
Make no mistake, Maia will be targeting his aggression and focus towards finishing the fight. He has already earned four “Submission of the Night” awards, and has finished all but one of his professional fights.
Combine that with Maia’s motivation to replicate the successes of a living legend in the sport, and fans just might get a competitive fight.
“My hero is Royce Gracie, and now I’ve got the chance to emulate him and win the UFC championship. It’s a very exciting time for me, and an opportunity that I simply must take.”