Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicked off its UFC 153: "Silva vs. Bonnar" event last night from the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the first bout of the televised pay-per-view (PPV), former Middleweight number one contender Demian Maia did something he hadn't done in over three years.
He won by submission.
Maia forced the venerable Rick Story to surrender to a neck crank in the opening round, ending a drought of nine straight fights without a tap. But, more importantly, he did it as a welterweight, marking his second straight finish after abandoning the 185-pound class earlier this year.
That's bad news for the rest of the 170-pound "mix," considering how many wrestlers it's comprised of.
The Brazilian is a five-time world jiu-jitsu champion, including a 2007 win at Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC). While high level grappling often comes at the expense of proficient striking, Maia went through great pains to improve his stand up after Nate Marquardt pasted him in late 2009.
He won't be winning "Knockout of the Night," but he also won't be looking at the lights.
Considering the state of the welterweight division, his timing couldn't have been better. Division kingpin Georges St. Pierre will soon eliminate -- or be eliminated by -- Carlos Condit at the UFC 154 fight card next month in Montreal. So too, will Johny Hendricks in his fight against Martin Kampmann.
Then we have Rory MacDonald.
If "Ares" can get past B.J. Penn on FOX, he's behind the winner of Hendricks vs. Kampmann and probably one fight away from the title. After that? The air gets a bit cloudy. Josh Koscheck is out of the picture, but Jon Fitch, along with recent winners like Jake Ellenberger, Mike Pierce and John Hathaway, are all in their helicopters.
And Nick Diaz will be back before you know it.
In addition to his skills, I think you can easily put Maia right up there, based on his accomplishments as a middleweight. He left on a bit of a sour note, a three-round gas guzzler against Chris Weidman, but the fact that he's already competed for a division title and submitted one of its former number one contenders (Chael Sonnen) gives him some momentum.
So, who does he fight next?
Winning usually gets you a winner, so why not throw him in there against Fitch, who also walked out of Rio with a big win after spoiling Erick Silva's coming out party? That leaves Ellenberger and Pierce to slug it our for a spot in line while the loser of St. Pierre vs. Condit can fight the loser of Hendricks vs. Kampmann.
Nick Diaz vs. John Hathaway?
So many names, so little room in the top five. You've heard my attempts at fantasy matchmaking, fight fans, now let's hear yours. I'm ready to put Demian Maia "in the mix." Are you?
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