For years, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia has been dominating his UFC opponents at more than one weight class. His ground game has been one of the scariest things opposing fighters have encountered. Almost any fighter who has had their back taken by Maia basically ends up dealing with a snake that eventually strangles the life out of them.
Here’s a stat to give you an idea of how great Maia is at transitioning to his opponent’s back and finishing them: six of his nine submission wins in the UFC have come via rear-naked choke. That’s a scary stat, especially considering the number of fighters who have managed to survive his attempts while still getting dominated.
It’s safe to say that Maia hasn’t dealt with a ton of adversity from his recent opponents, especially since moving down to the welterweight division after competing at middleweight in his first 13 UFC fights. In fact, he even fought for the title against UFC legend Anderson Silva, the longest-reigning middleweight champ up to this point. Unfortunately, Maia was a bit undersized compared to the rest of the fighters in the weight class, especially those who had to cut 15 to 20 pounds just to get to 185.
Even with how small Maia was compared to the other middleweights, his abilities far outweighed any real size advantage the other fighters enjoyed. Out of those 13 middleweight fights, he only lost four bouts. He was knocked out only once by a flash knockout from hard-hitting contender Nate Marquardt. Furthermore, he had four wins by submission — three by rear-naked choke — with all four earning him “Submission of the Night” honors.
Clearly, Maia was no slouch at middleweight, but sometimes the bigger guys can find ways to dominate and overpower smaller opponents. To be fair, he was also beginning to fight tougher competition, so this was definitely a factor. That’s probably why he ended up losing four of his last eight fights at middleweight before he finally decided to move down to welterweight.
Since his move, Maia has gone 9-2, winning four fights via submission — again, three by rear-naked choke — and proving he hasn’t slowed down at all. What’s even more impressive is that he’s taken on big-time contenders like Rick Story, Jon Fitch, Rory MacDonald (one of his two losses), Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson, Matt Brown and, most recently, Carlos Condit. Keep in mind, those last four were all dominating performances, which is why he has earned so much notoriety and is in consideration for a title shot.
That’s where longtime MMA veteran and American Top Team fixture Jorge Masvidal comes in. Not only has this guy earned his stripes in his most recent fights, but he’s shown a ridiculous tenacity to put it all on the line against his opponent. He will basically trade with anybody, because he’s that confident, and he will even risk going to the ground, if need be. He doesn’t lean on his jiu-jitsu much — he’s much more interested in boxing with opponents — but he can hold his own there, as well.
Since Masvidal and Maia are on a collision course, the ATT product knows what he has to do to compete against the 39-year-old Brazilian. Obviously, striking alone won’t get the job done, because Maia will be going straight for the takedown. He’s going to need to not only work on his takedown defense — Maia has a strong double leg which makes the Brazilian very effective at getting someone down and also keeping them down — but Masvidal will have to play a very small distance game with Maia, making sure to keep him at arm’s length.
If Masvidal wishes, he can also challenge Maia to go for the takedown and get the Brazilian to tire himself out. There’s a possibility that this strategy is effective, but with how quick Maia likes to work, that plan might go south very quickly. Maia has been practicing BJJ at an extremely high level for so long, so he knows how to conserve his energy the right way and then suddenly go in for the kill. It’s a very methodical approach, and only those with experience, like Maia, know how to operate like that.
The challenge is a steep one for Masvidal, no matter how he deals with it. Maia will certainly make him train hard and come up with a great strategy, especially seeing as how he’s being trained by one of the best camps with some of the best coaches in the world. They will surely formulate a plan for him. Plus, Masvidal is a veteran. He’s dealt with a lot of big-name fighters, so this will not be anything new for him. At age 32, he’s still young, but he has a ton of experience, too.
If Maia wins, it would almost be criminal if he isn’t offered a title shot. He’s also nearing his 40th birthday at the end of this year, so the time is almost certainly now, before the conclusion of 2017.
As for Masvidal, it’s possible, based on how impressive of a showing he has against Maia, that he will receive a title shot against his ATT teammate, champion Tyron Woodley. Masvidal has finished his last two opponents, and in impressive fashion, no less. He completely blasted Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and he scored a finish, albeit a controversial one, of Jake Ellenberger. At one point, he had lost three out of four fights, so the UFC brass isn’t exactly sure if he can keep up the momentum, which is why a fight with Maia will challenge him in a big way.
The title implications here can be huge, and the result will definitely have an impact on the standings for both guys.