Brazilian jiujitsu ace Demian Maia is on a roll as of late, having finished two opponents in a row following his move down to 170. Those wins over Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story brought Maia back to his original top skillset of grappling and have earned him a shot at perennial Welterweight contender Jon Fitch at UFC 156 on Saturday. Maia had begun to stagnate at Middleweight even though he was a onetime title challenger.
He was criticized for looking more gassed than Chris Weidman at UFC on Fox 2 last year, even though his opponent had taken the fight on short notice and cut upwards of 45 lbs. to make the bout. After that lackluster decision loss, Maia decided it was time for a change, revealing the following to ESPN:
“I needed to be reborn. I felt when I was hitting guys or going for a takedown at 185, sometimes it was like hitting a wall. Now in this weight division, it's more fair for me."
Indeed, many MMA fans and journalists found it continously perplexing to see Maia turn his bouts into kickboxing matches, an area where he decidely held no advantage. True, he needed to up his standup game to hang with the top dogs, but he was apparently abandoning his true area of expertise in BJJ. Now, he says he's gone full-circle back to his roots:
“Now that I learned I'm able to do well with boxing, I was able to train more jiu-jitsu again. I've come back to my grappling.”
Sounds like a great gameplan for Maia, but it will cause some headaches for the rest of the Welterweight division. Maia knows that Jon Fitch is one of the best wrestlers at 170, and is also very resilient and seemingly impossible to submit. Still, that will not stop Maia from attempting to use his world-class BJJ skills to end the fight early on Saturday night. He declared his intentions fully:
"My dream is to take the fight down in the first minute and submit Fitch. That's my dream and I hope it comes true."
Doing that would truly be a sight to behold at the ultra-stacked UFC 156 card. It will be a classic matchup of elite wrestler versus elite grappler, in a bout that will be absolutely pivotal for each fighter's career. This fight has not been talked about on a huge level this week, but make no mistakes, as it serves as very important fight in a very talented division. Can the newly reinvented Demian Maia submit the always gritty Jon Fitch?