Demian Maia has been a force in the UFC for over a decade now, but will Saturday mark the end of the vaunted grappler’s days as a top contender?
Maia is booked to take on rising welterweight, Kamaru Usman at UFC Fight Night 129, which will go down in Santiago, Chile. Maia is looking to get back on track, after losing by decision to champion Tyron Woodley last July, and then Colby Covington in October.
As the fight nears, Maia is a sizeable underdog for the contest in the +295 to +336 range. The reason for that is likely because Usman has won all seven of his UFC bouts to date, he’s nine years younger than Maia, and he’s also a former, NCAA Division 11 wrestling champ. As you likely know, both Woodley and Covington are decorated wrestlers, and Maia dropped both those fights because he was unable to put his ground game to work.
This is likely a big reason why Usman recently told MMA Weekly this:
“I believe I’m the worst matchup for anybody but especially a guy like him,” Usman said. “It just goes to show the work that I put in, which is why I called him out two years ago. I may not be the biggest guy in the welterweight division, but I guarantee pound-for-pound, I’m the strongest guy in the welterweight division. My fight IQ is higher than a lot of guys in the division. Pound-for-pound my striking is able to hang with anybody in the division. Pound-for-pound my grappling is able to hang with the best in the division. What makes me the most dangerous is the ability to mix it up and bring those skills in whenever I need them.
“That’s why he knows I’m the worst possible matchup for him. Everybody in the world knows that. I believe this is why the fight never took place when I asked for the fight years ago.”
Now, there’s a lot of compelling reasons to predict that Maia is going to lose this bout. If he does, it will be his third straight loss, and a defeat will almost certainly drop the Brazilian star out of the top five rankings. Currently Maia is ranked fifth.
If that happens, should we close the book on Maia’s lengthy run as a title contender? The answer here is probably yes.
It is true that plenty of people wrote Maia off as a contender as far back as 2014, when he dropped back-to-back bouts against Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald. The jiu-jitsu demi-god, however, proceeded to prove those folks wrong by winning six in a row.
At this stage of the game though it’s hard to imagine that unfolding again. Particularly when you consider his recent defeats and consider the competition he would be facing. And really, in terms of Maia’s legacy, it doesn’t have to.
The soft spoken star has fought for titles at 185 and 170; he’s defeated many notable fighters during his career, while being one of the greatest ambassadors for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the modern era of MMA. Not many fighters can say that.