This past weekend, at the UFC 156 event in Las Vegas, Brazilian welterweight Demian Maia scored a dominant unanimous decision victory over long time top contender Jon Fitch. Maia now sits back and waits for UFC 158 on March 16th, as 3 matches pitting six of the top welterweights in the world, including champion Georges St Pierre, as with his performance he has thrust his name into those elite levels. Let’s take a look at where Maia stands among the welterweight’s best.
UFC President Dana White commented at the post UFC 156 fight press conference that ‘Maia had out-Fitch-ed Jon Fitch’. White also referenced the UFC 158 card, stating the matches are a kind of ‘tournament’ in his head, and that Maia is right there with those guys.
St Pierre is favored to retain his belt against Nick Diaz. If Hendricks wins his bout at 158 with Jake Ellenberger, he has the inside track at challenging for the title. Carlos Condit versus Rory MacDonald is the hardest of the UFC 158 fights to pick, but MacDonald versus St Pierre is unlikely to be next up.
Maia is a competitive stylistic matchup for every one of the fighters on that list. Since dropping back to 170 lbs, he has relied on his bread and butter jiu jitsu game to dominate, and he has done well. The drop in weight class enables his length to come more into play, as well as his top game. At 185 lbs, he tended to pull guard. Against Fitch he displayed a powerful game of control and positioning, and Fitch usually does that to other people.
Which should concern the wrestler based guys like MacDonald Hendricks and Ellenberger. If Maia controls them the way he did Fitch, he takes their big punches away, and he would likely win the match.
Condit has a very diversified attack and has a very similar body type to Maia (long and lanky), and may indeed be the fighter with the best chance at beating Maia if Maia is at his best.
Against Nick Diaz, Maia would likely get it to the ground and be on top, as there is no reason for him to box with a guy like Diaz. Diaz has excellent JJ himself, and it is proven in MMA beyond Maia’s, so it would be an interesting fight that would likely see Condit as the favorite.
One of the things that got people excited when Maia dropped to welterweight was that he had several fast submissions. That didn’t happen against Fitch, and of the five potential next fights for Maia, really Ellenberger is probably the best sub candidate, everyone else would be an extremely tough out.
‘Out Fitch-e Jon Fitch’ can be construed as a back handed complement depending on who says it. Fitch was known as a mechanical and at many times, as a boring fighter, and a Maia who does not get submissions will be seen the same way.
The bottom line though, is that Maia has succeeded in cracking the elite group of welterweights that the UFC has.