COMMENTARY | Last night, the UFC returned to Brazil with UFC Fight Night 29: Maia vs. Shields. The main card was relatively entertaining and featured a good mix of skill and entertainment value. However, some parts of the show were better than others. Here are the three biggest winners and the three biggest losers of the night.
Raphael Assuncao and T.J. Dillashaw each entered their fight with four-fight winning streaks and an eye on moving one step closer to a title shot. Dillashaw controlled the first round and came close to finishing the fight with rear naked choke. Assuncao, however, was able to stay resilient and fend off the choke to survive. In the second round, Assuncao turned things around and was able to score points on his feet with some strikes that damaged Dillashaw to an extent. The third round was close, but upon the scores being read, Assuncao took a split decision win. All in all, it was an impressive victory over a tough opponent, which will go a long way in the relatively shallow bantamweight division.
Entering the main event fight, much of the talk was on whether hometown fighter Demian Maia would be next in line for a title shot if he were to get past Shields. Due to Maia's recent success in the welterweight division and elite jiu jitsu, the home-octagon advantage and the fact that Shields has not necessarily impressed in recent fights, Maia entered the bout as the favorite. Instead, it was Shields who imposed his will on Maia en route to the split decision victory. To be sure, the grappling and position-heavy strategy employed by Shields was not the most exciting approach. However, an upset victory over Maia in Brazil should be more than enough to advance Shields to a fight with a top contender in the welterweight division, and it has to leave him as one of the night's biggest winners.
Entering the fight having lost his two previous fights via knockout, it was fair to wonder Palhares had been figured out. To be sure, he has some of the most dangerous submissions in the UFC, but one couldn't help but wonder if the trick to beating him was as simple as avoiding a crushing leg lock and putting leather on his chin. That may still be the case, but Mike Pierce was unable to exploit such a strategy, as he fell victim to one of Palhares' brutal heel hooks just thirty seconds into the first round. Although Palhares might be somewhat one dimensional, that one dimension is one of the most dangerous weapons in the UFC and it was on full display Wednesday night. Notwithstanding the fact that he was docked a "Submission of the Night" bonus due to unsportsmanlike conduct in holding onto that submission too long, Palhares still has to qualify as one of the biggest winners of the night for the ultra-impressive win over a tough Pierce.
Erick Silva entered his co-main event fight against Dong Hyun Kim as one of the hottest prospects in the welterweight division. The thought heading into the fight was that a win over Kim could catapult Silva into the upper parts of the division. Silva started the fight with his trademark relentlessness, but got sloppy in missing many wild strike attempts when he had Kim hurt. Silva noticeably tired as the fight entered the second round (more on that later), which left him susceptible to the knockout loss he suffered. Kim fits the role of a gatekeeper in the welterweight division, and the loss by Silva will likely be seen as evidence that he is still not ready to make the leap into the next level of the division.
An unfortunately common theme on the main card was a noticeable lack of conditioning among many of the fighters. Four of the six fights featured both fighters looking noticeably tired as the bout went on: Joey Beltran vs. Fabio Maldonado, Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill, Kim vs. Silva and Maia vs. Shields. The Silva-Hamill fight was the most egregious, as at times it looked like the fighters had to essentially stop moving to catch their breaths. To be sure, everyone that got into the octagon last night is likely in better condition than I am, but to compete at the highest levels of the sport more is required.
Maia entered the fight against Shields with his sights set on a victory that would potentially lead to a shot at the UFC welterweight title. Him getting a title shot is an interesting thought because his world-class jiu jitsu could give the wrestlers at the top of the division an intense challenge. He was not able to implement much of anything against Shields and struggled to get anything going until desperation set in during the final seconds of the fight when he made a point to throw strikes with reckless abandon. Had he featured this aggressiveness early, the result may have been different. Instead, he fell victim to Shields' wrestling and positioning en route to a split decision loss that will end any discussion about Maia deserving a title shot in the near future.
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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Demian Maia
- Raphael Assuncao
- Jake Shields