Where does Demian Maia Fit In This Supposed Welterweight Tournament?

Every highly ranked welterweight in the UFC will be competing this Saturday night at UFC 158. Except one.

To quote Joe Rogan, former middleweight no. 1 contender Demian Maia is a whole other animal at 170 lbs. He has steamrolled through all three of his opponents since debuting in this weight class, and it’s safe to say that he looked utterly unstoppable in his last performance. Maia’s three round Jiu-Jitsu clinic at the expense of Jon Fitch at UFC 156 was especially remarkable because it proved how much more of an imposing force he has become after a simple 15 pound drop. Had he not faced the man with quite possibly the best submission defense in MMA, Maia’s relentless take downs and use of the constricting body triangle would have easily earned him a first round victory.

But it can also be said that the real story behind Maia’s latest win was his drastically improved cardio, which allowed him to actively maintain the back mount position while looking for a rear naked choke for the majority of the fight, despite Fitch doing all he could to shake him off.

Say hello to the newest king of stamina and submissions in the UFC welterweight division.

That being said, what’s next for Demian Maia? He’s 3-0, each win over a very reputable opponent. There’s no question that he deserves a top 5 welterweight for his next fight. The name of this adversary greatly depends on the results of UFC 158.

We don’t know what the future holds for Nick Diaz if he loses to Georges St. Pierre. Yet even if he decides to stay in the UFC and attempts to fight his way back to the top, he probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to fight Maia since Demian would have no desire to stand with him and there would be little if any drama involved. Nick would also understand that his odds on the ground wouldn’t be too good.

Rory MacDonald is supposed to fight Carlos Condit next, regardless of what happens to him at UFC 158. "Ares" has given us the impression that he won’t be able to continue his career without getting revenge for Condit’s controversial TKO at UFC 115. And Carlos is happy to grant his request, as he would definitely like to clear up any suspicion that Rory was and still is the better fighter. So, those two are out of the picture for Maia as of now.

Johny Hendricks is next in line for Georges St. Pierre if he gets his hand raised this Saturday night. If Hendricks loses, however, he will most likely meet Jake Ellenberger as "The Juggernaut" was Johny’s original opponent in this event and Jake has accused him of ducking his intensity and power.

Then there’s the off-chance that Nate Marquardt pulls off a huge upset against Ellenberger. It could make sense for Nate to get Maia next in this situation, unless Johny Hendricks comes up short against Condit and the UFC is abnormally fond of the idea of Hendricks vs. Marquardt. Both prospective fights would be interesting and rather appropriate for 2nd degree BJJ black-belt Marquardt, who would need another win over a top contender to cement his dominance at 170 lbs. and eclipse his recent loss to Tarec Saffiedine.

Remember him? The Belgian Muay Thai machine was actually supposed to face Carlos Condit at UFC 158 once Rory got hurt, but backed out because he didn’t think he could get in the best possible condition in time for the fight. His last fight saw him ruthlessly brutalize Marquardt with leg kicks over five rounds. We know he’s got the striking capabilities to be a true threat in the division, but the last time we saw someone really test his grappling skills, Tyron Woodley came out on top via Unanimous Decision. Maia’s take downs could only be neutralized by the most technically accomplished of strikers, and Saffeidine would be eager to prove himself worthy of this status by beating the Brazilian should he get the chance.

Now let’s get real. Unless an incredibly swift and accurate KO is scored at the beginning of the round, it’s frankly hard to imagine any of the aforementioned fighters having an answer to Maia’s submissions. Virtually every wrestling-based strategy can be counted out as well, since we just saw Maia defeat one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the sport.

It honestly seems like GSP is the only man whose strength, cardio, and experience could possibly avoid Maia’s clutches. And if Demian’s next victory is just as impressive as his last, it could very well grant him a title shot. All ongoing feuds aside, Demian Maia is the man to beat for anybody who wants to get to the top of the welterweight division as fast as possible. Overcoming this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master would require a level of grappling and cardio that should only be on par with the best in the world.

If someone is to vanquish Demian Maia, that someone will most likely be either the current or next welterweight champion.

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