Top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight Demian Maia had the opportunity to make waves in his home state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, when he faced Jake Shields in the main event of last night's (October 9, 2013) UFC Fight Night 29 event on FOX Sports 1.
Unfortunately, his bid to remain undefeated in the 170-pound division didn't go quite as planned.
The fight delivered a highly-skilled grappling war between two of the best submission artists in mixed martial arts (MMA), but Maia ultimately ended up on the wrong side of a split decision.
Shields' American jiu-jitsu proved superior to its Brazilian counterpart. He will receive a much-needed boost up the rankings after falling out of the top 10. Maia proved to be a tough combatant, but the story of this bout was Shields' repeated ground reversals.
To many, it may have appeared to be a boring match, and with numerous restarts prompted by the referee, they may have had a point at times. But those who truly appreciate the ground aspect of MMA would likely disagree.
Shields and Maia are two masters who put on an impressive back-and-forth match at UFN 29. Let's break down how the former Strikeforce champ pulled off the huge upset at Jose Correa Gymnasium.
Maia looked to display his underrated wrestling skills early on, gaining a hard-fought takedown that Shields reversed. Maia used his top-notch ground game to take Shields' back, who responded with another reversal that had him in top position. Shields ended the round scoring points with strikes that appeared to do little damage.
The clinch work of Shields was great throughout, completely neutralizing Maia's offense at times. Shields also smothered him with a relentlessly effective top game, and while his ground-and-pound never had Maia in danger of being stopped, it scored a ton of points.
Maia kicked off the third round by backing Shields up with some hard lefts, transitioning into a successful takedown. The trend of the night continued when Shields countered position yet again, landing on top to control the remainder of the round.
The pace slowed in the fourth, with Maia doing a ton of work in the clinch and on the ground to a few restarts. Maia seemed to have the edge in the round. As the final frame began, Shields appeared to be a bit gassed with a sizable mouse under his eye. He fought on to look for endless takedowns.
Maia withstood these late attempts as the two continued their chess match of position. Shields had no power on his strikes, and Maia landed some shots that backed him up to end the contest.
It was a close fight that came down to a split decision, and it's an absolute huge victory for Shields. If not for his win over Ed Herman at UFC 150 being changed to a No Contest, Shields would be on a four-fight winning streak and most likely ranked in or around the top five of his division.
Instead, he's likely on his way into the top 10 thanks to his grappling-heavy style. He hasn't been winning with any flash, but it's hard to argue with his effectiveness after a win over a quality opponent like Maia in hostile territory.
With many of the top welterweights booked right now, perhaps a rematch with Jake Ellenberger -- who knocked Shields out at UFC Fight Night 25 -- would make sense. Shields was dealing with the death of his father at the time and may want a chance to prove that loss was a fluke.
Maia will have to go back to the drawing board after his first loss at welterweight.
A ton of praise had been heaped upon him and he was discussed as a future title contender. It's a disheartening loss because Shields never had him in any serious trouble of being finished, he just controlled him. The fight could have easily gone his way, so Maia shouldn't take too much of a hit from the loss.
He'll receive a slight step down in competition and still provides an incredibly tough out for the majority of the division.
Jake Shields impressed with his grinding decision win over Demian Maia. Was it enough to put him back towards the top of a talented UFC welterweight division?
For more news, notes and reactions from UFC Fight Night 29, including fight video highlights and play-by-play coverage of all the action from Brazil, check out our "Maia vs. Shields" live coverage story stream by clicking here.