COMMENTARY | This Wednesday night, the UFC returns to Brazil with UFC Fight Night 29: Maia vs. Shields. The main event features the show's namesakes, as Demian Maia takes on Jake Shields in a welterweight bout that should have implications on the division rankings going forward. This is especially the case for Maia, who has won all three of his fights since dropping from middleweight, and could present some interesting troubles for the wrestling-heavy Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks.
It has been a surprising turn of events for Maia, who had become lost in the middleweight division since losing a title shot against Anderson Silva in 2010. He had gone just 3-2 since that loss, with all five fights ending in rather forgettable decisions. Now, after three consecutive victories in the welterweight division, Maia has shot towards the top of a relatively short list of future title contenders.
A win against Shields would likely put Maia in position for a title eliminator, or at least a fight against a top-5 divisional opponent. These stakes make a potential victory on Wednesday night one of the top moments of Maia's career. Until then, here are the top five most memorable moments of Maia's career thus far:
5. UFC Debut Submission Win Over Ryan Jensen
Maia made his UFC debut at UFC 77 in late 2007 against Ryan Jensen. He entered as a celebrated grappler, having recently won gold in the 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship. Maia lived up to the hype against Jensen and displayed his elite grappling prowess with a submission victory via rear naked choke in the first round. Earning a bonus for "Submission of the Night," Maia announced his presence as someone not to mess with on the mat.
4. Besting Another Black Belt
At UFC 87 in August 2008, Maia was matched up against fellow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Jason MacDonald. Entering the fight, both men had won two "Submission of the Night" bonuses in the UFC, and the storyline wondered whether MacDonald could out-duel Maia on the mat. The fight predictably featured mainly grappling, and Maia forced MacDonald to scramble to escape multiple submission attempts throughout. In the end, Maia proved his superiority and earned a third round submission win via rear naked choke, which earned him his third "Submission of the Night" in three fights.
3. Welterweight Debut
After struggling to gain traction in the middleweight division after the loss to Silva, Maia decided to drop to welterweight for his fight against Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 148 in July 2012. From the weigh-ins the night before, it was clear that Maia's frame was better suited for the welterweight division, as he looked leaner and more fit than he had at any time as a middleweight. Against Kim, he was not able to show off his improved conditioning, as he won the bout in just 47 seconds after Kim suffered a muscle spasm. However, in that 47 seconds, Maia was able to take down the sturdy Kim and get to a dominant position. And, although the fight ended in quick fashion, the win stands for the career rebirth that the welterweight division has given Maia.
2. Re-Establishing Submission Dominance
Maia took the UFC by storm upon his debut, winning his first five fights by submission and earning four "Submission of the Night" bonuses in the process. However, after the fifth of those submissions, Maia went nine consecutive fights without another submission, a streak that spanned over three years. As a result, it was fair to ask whether opponents had figured out how to neutralize Maia's dangerous grappling. Maia put these questions to rest in his second fight at welterweight against Rick Story at UFC 153 last October. After securing a fight-ending neck crank in the first round, it was clear that Maia's submission prowess should still be feared as the elite weapon it is.
1. Submitting Chael Sonnen
Before Chael Sonnen fully adopted the loud-mouth "American Gangster" gimmick, he returned to the octagon after a successful stint in the WEC at UFC 95 in early 2009 to meet Maia. The Brazilian dispatched Sonnen midway through the first round with a slick takedown, mount and triangle choke. Defeating Sonnen in such dominating fashion shot Maia into the middleweight title picture and only looks more impressive now that Sonnen has since fought in three UFC title fights and has been ranked in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Maia now hopes that another signature win over Shields on Wednesday will do similar things for him in the welterweight division and displace the domination of Sonnen on the top of his career highlights.
Related Content From this Contributor:
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