UFC light heavyweight and UFC Tonight co-host Chael Sonnen recently sat down with MMAWeekly.com editor Ken Pishna to give us his thoughts on some of the key fights from Wednesday night’s UFC Fight Night 29: Maia vs. Shields.
The Maia vs. Shields main card airs live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT from the Jose Correa Gymnasium in Barueri, São Paulo, Brazil.
Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Pierce
I think Palhares is a very dangerous and very good fighter. I think he's only got one way to win. That was real successful when everyone was trying to find out what that one way was, but now that the cat is out of the bag that doesn't keep you out of the woods if you're his opponent. He's still gonna go for the technique, he's great at it, you still gotta stop it for 15 minutes.
I think Palhares is an 85-pounder that's gonna cut too much weight and feel it. He's gonna feel it; he's got a speed problem, especially with Pierce.
(This is Palhares’ first fight since moving from middleweight down to welterweight.)
Fighting Mike Pierce is like getting dealt from the bottom of the deck. Mike Pierce is as good as they get in that division. He has a split decision against Johny Hendricks, which means one of the judges thought he won the fight. Split decision to Josh Koscheck, I was in the building that night. All 14,000 people thought he won that fight except for two of the judges. Mike Pierce is really, really good.
I'm picking Mike Pierce, and I think Mike Pierce is gonna stop him.
It's not because I don't think Palhares is great. I think he's great. I just think it was a bad move changing weight, and this particular opponent isn't fun for anybody.
Raphael Assuncao vs. TJ Dillashaw
These guys both need to be (in the title) conversation. Assuncao is one of the most under-appreciated, possibly the most under-appreciated, Top 5-ranked fighters in the world that the UFC has. He's got to get a little bit more notoriety to go along with this tremendous skill.
Dillashaw on the other hand just broke into the Top 10. I think there is an upset in the works here. I think Dillashaw is even better than that. I think people were just slow to take notice, but that is definitely one of the more competitive fights on the card. These guys are very, very close; it's a very important match.
I give the edge to Dillashaw. I think he's a little better wrestler and his hands are coming along, plus you have this Duane Ludwig that's 12-0 (coaching him) and that's an incredible streak. This team is on a roll.
Erick Silva vs. Dong Hyun Kim
This one is pretty interesting. Erick Silva is a lot better. He has a lot more skills. He spent a lot more time becoming diverse and learning all these different aspects. With that said, I think that is greatly overhyped in this sport, that a guy needs to be well rounded.
You're always better to have one dominant discipline. You're much better to master a discipline than sucking at a whole bunch of them. I don't mean to imply that Erick Silva sucks. I think he's an excellent fighter, but I do think that the Stun Gun Kim is dominant in getting to the top position and scoring once he gets there.
We saw what Jon Fitch did to Silva. I think that Fitch over-performed that night. I'm not sure that it's as much a commentary on Silva as it was Fitch feeling the desperation and going out and really putting on a spectacular performance. That being said, surely Stun Gun has seen this.
Certainly, Stun Gun watched this fight and he goes, hey listen, this is a blueprint to beat this Silva kid. And as it turns out, that happens to be what I'm good at, getting on top, keeping guys down, and scoring from that position.
I like Kim in this fight. I'm not super-confident in that. I think it's a very close match. But I like Kim and that would probably be considered an upset.
Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields
I think this match stays on the ground. I don't think it's going to be standing up very long. Jake Shields isn't afraid to go to the mat with Demian Maia. Maia isn't afraid to go to the mat with anybody. He's a world champion. Anybody alive, Maia can go to the mat with.
Georges St-Pierre went so far as to call Jake Shields the best grappler in the sport, not just in the division, and he included himself in that. So Jake Shields' likelihood of being caught in a submission or even swept is pretty limited.
I think that Jake Shields' plan is to get the top position and maintain it for the majority of the fight and win a decision. I also think that he's gonna do that. But I think that this fight is so close.
There're two things going on here that aren't really talked about. Most fights are made for the fans; this one is made for the industry. Guys like you and me, guys in the locker room, guys that work for the UFC, the media, we want to see this fight bad. We've wanted to see this fight for a long time and now these guys are in the same weight class where it can finally happen.
The other thing happening here is Demian Maia has got to be razor thin to being declared the No. 1 contender. I haven't heard that officially said. But regardless if the UFC makes that official or not, I believe media members from you to me to Kenny Florian are going to declare him the rightful No. 1 contender if he beats Jake Shields, especially in any type of dominant fashion. After destroying Rick Story, after destroying Jon Fitch, those are excellent fighters; after beating the Stun Gun, that was by injury; he's got to be on a collision course with Georges St-Pierre.