I don’t know why I completely discounted Demian Maia from the UFC 112 title shot sweepstakes. Maybe it was because of the nasty eyelid gash that doesn’t look like it’s going to heal very soon. Maybe it was his 21 second knockout at the hands of a less deadly Nate Marquardt. Or maybe it was the fact that he couldn’t even get Dan Miller down and keep him there. But for whatever reason, Maia wasn’t even on my list of likely candidates. But that’s who Dana White has picked. From a UFC press release:
“It’s always tough when a top fighter like Vitor Belfort has to pull out of a big title fight, but we have found a high quality replacement,” said UFC President Dana White. “Top contender Chael Sonnen was not available due to injuries sustained in his fight with Nate Marquardt, so top six middleweight Demian Maia will step in to fight for the title. Maia is an Abu Dhabi grappling champion, a five-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, and he is 12-1 in MMA and coming off a win over Dan Miller at UFC 109. Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia will be a matchup between MMA’s best striker and MMA’s best grappler.”
Who the fuck says ‘top six’? That just screams ‘Demian Maia is #6’, not exactly the most prestigious ranking in the world. And it doesn’t even make sense – at 185, you’ve got Anderson, Vitor, Chael, and Nate ahead of Maia. Is Dana White suddenly including Strikeforce fighters in his ‘top six’ for some cracky reason? He could have easily said top five and no one would have said shit. Maybe this is some subliminal ‘lowered expectations’ shit.
Anyways, Demian is a ‘worthy’ opponent in that I still think he deserves a title shot despite the swift shellacking Nate Marquardt unleashed on him. But as far as being a challenge to Anderson Silva, not so much. Stylistically there’s not much there. We know he’s amazing on the ground, but UFC 109 also taught us that he’s not so amazing at getting guys down there. And his stand up skills? Props to him for upgrading them from god awful to semi-promising. That’s still about 20 levels below where it needs to be in order for him to even come close to hanging with Anderson Silva. Add in the fact that the guys who took him to the next level, the Nogueira brothers, probably aren’t gonna be helping him get any better, and you’ve got a recipe for minced Maia.
Finding a decent opponent for Anderson Silva is difficult in the best of times and the whole Chael / Demian / Nate love triangle hasn’t made it any easier. Honestly, I would have been more down with Nate getting the shot because stylistically he makes more sense, but that’s some less than obvious logic and I can understand why the UFC would choose the guy coming off a win over the one coming off a loss. In the end, so long as the fight doesn’t end up looking like Silva vs Leites, I’ll be happy.
(pic from MMA Weekly’s UFC 109 post event conference)