Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the UFC is heading down to Brazil for another action-packed fight card.
Headlining the card is a welterweight matchup between two veterans of the game in hometown favorite Demian Maia and former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields. Maia, a former middleweight, has looked absolutely dominant since making the drop to welterweight last summer, rattling off three straight victories and emerging as a legitimate title threat in a stacked 170-pound division.
Shields, who returned to welterweight this past summer after a brief stint at middleweight, was once been considered one of the most dangerous fighters in all of mixed martial arts before a loss to UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre in 2010 snapped his 15-fight win streak. Since that night, Shields has posted a disappointing 2-2 record while failing a drug test in the process.
This match truly has been long overdue, as this main event will usher in the UFC’s fall calendar with a bang.
In his last two bouts, Shields spent a surprising amount of time on his striking, as he peppered his opponents throughout each bout. While he’s certainly not much a of a knockout threat, Shields throws punches in volume and utilizes crisp boxing and leg kicks to set up his takedowns. If Shields uses this same strategy against Maia, it could end up being costly, as Shields faced little takedown offense from his opponents while Maia is sure to counter leg kicks with takedown attempts. Maia may not be a kickboxing expert, but he holds a wide array of strikes and has some experience against some of the best strikers in the organization. While it’s safe to say neither guy is a stand up wizard, the advantage has to go to Maia based solely on being the more versatile striker.
The closest matchup in this fight has to be in the grappling department, as both men have shown elite skills in dragging their opponents to the ground. Maia’s takedown offense is one of the best in the division, and has secured him 11 takedowns since making the drop in weight class. But what is really astounding about this number is the fact that these takedowns have come against fighters known for their wrestling abilities in Jon Fitch and Dong-Hyun Kim. Similarly, Shields has out grappled world class fighters like Dan Henderson, Martin Kampann and Jason “Mayhem’ Miller. The only glaring difference in their two styles is how each man secures his takedowns in the cage. Maia tends to drag his opponents down from the clinch and utilize his world-class ground game to run circles around his opponents. But Shields, who is just as good in the clinch, has shown to have a very formidable single-leg and double-leg takedown. It’s a toss-up over who has the edge but I’ll give it Shields in a razor-thin decision.
For fans of the submission game this is a dream. While experts and fans alike are clamoring to see how these fighters’ grounds skills will fare against one another, I personally don’t see it even remotely close if it ends up on the canvas. Shields earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the legendary Caesar Gracie, and with 10 career submission victories, he has proven to be one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the entire organization. But while Shields has shown he is more than capable on the mat as he’s competed in several submission competitions, he simply can’t hold a candle to Maia’s ground game. Maia not only holds the best jiu-jitsu game in the entire welterweight division, it can be argued he has the best submission game in the entire UFC. With four Submission of the Night honors to go along with dozens of medals in grappling competition, including being crowned the 2007 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion, Maia is in a league of his own on the canvas and is a threat to submit his opponent from his back or from the top position.
This is definitely Maia’s fight to lose, as he has looked like an absolute wrecking ball since making the change to welterweight. Shields may have more championship experience and holds more wins over top name opponents, he has never faced an opponent with Maia’s skill set. With his stamina in question and less than stellar performances in his last two victories, I don’t see many scenarios where Shields gets his hand raised in the end. Maia will undoubtedly beat Shields to almost every position, as he smothers his opponent into a late-round submission and climbs to within reaching distance of a welterweight title shot.
Maia via Round 3 submission