Mixed martial arts (MMA) fights contested under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner are comprised of five-minute rounds. In the case of Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) champion and former middleweight number one contender Demian Maia, it could have just as easily been three.
Five straight appearances under the ZUFFA banner returned fight straight submission victories for the undefeated Brazilian, all within three minutes of their respective rounds. Maia had made a mockery of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) standouts Ed Herman and Nate Quarry, in addition to choking out Jason MacDonald, who labeled himself a "TUF killer."
As a result, there were whispers of a title shot coming sooner, rather than later.
That's because his breakout win -- which pushed his unblemished record to 11-0 and marked his fifth as a UFC fighter -- came at the expense of Chael Sonnen, who was making his highly-anticipated return to the Octagon after a pair of bizarre fights against then-relevant Paulo Filho in World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC).
Sonnen, as we would come to expect in later appearances, found himself in the headlines at the expense of a Brazilian, but had also amassed over 10 years of experience competing on the regional and international circuit to complement his collegiate wrestling background.
In short, there was no room for error against the former (and future) light heavyweight.
The stage was set for Maia vs. Sonnen on the televised main card at the UFC 95: "Sanchez vs. Stevenson" event on Spike TV, back on Feb. 21, 2009 from the O2 Arena in London, England.
Here's what happened.
A touch of gloves gets the action underway and Maia lumbers in as a southpaw, winging a wild right hand followed by a leg to the body, which Sonnen effortlessly catches and holds, while he kicks out the Brazilian's back leg, watching in amusement as his opponent crashes to the canvas.
Not the best of starts for the soft-spoken grappler.
Undeterred, Maia jumps back up and resumes the stand-up battle, as UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg wonders aloud just how long it will be for the aggressor to pull guard, as color commentator Joe Rogan lauds Sonnen for being a "solid striker."
Moments later, Maia shoots for a takedown, but Sonnen's sprawl denies him.
Regardless, the distance is close enough to allow Maia the opportunity to slink in a leg and bait his opponent into a ground exchange. Sonnen is tepid at first, using a cautious approach from the top to drop intermittent strikes without committing to the Brazilian's guard.
"Demian Maia has a dangerous triangle," warns Rogan.
Sonnen allows himself to be committed to full guard and works feverishly to escape. The future "Gangster" escapes out the back door and circles out of harm's way, forcing the Brazilian to get back to his feet while flat-footed referee, Dan Miragliotta, scoots to his left.
Once again, Maia goes on the offensive and both middleweights uncork a barrage of wild strikes. Sonnen gets backed into the fence, where out of nowhere, Maia scores a picture-perfect lateral drop and dumps his opponent to the floor -- right into the triangle position.
As Rogan would quickly observe, "That's a wrap."
Maia's ability to dispose of Sonnen in such quick fashion allowed the network to air one of its untelevised preliminary card fights, featuring a relatively unknown Brazilian boxer named Junior dos Santos, making just his second appearance inside the Octagon against a debuting Stefan Struve.
What a difference a few years makes.
That holds true for Maia, as well, who would suffer a devastating knockout loss to Nate Marquardt in his very next fight. He rebounded against Dan Miller, only to come up short to Anderson Silva in one of the worst title fights in the history of the promotion.
His inconsistency at 185 pounds prompted a trip down to the welterweight division
Since then, Maia has returend to his winning ways, racking up three consecutive victories -- with two finishes -- against Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story and most recently, former 170-pound title contender Jon Fitch. He now faces what could be his equal this Wednesday night (Oct. 9, 2013) in his native land.
Former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields.
Shields has also returned to the welterweight division and will try to prove that it is he, not Maia, who is a top contender in a very crowded division when they lock horns at UFC Fight Night 29 inside the Jose Correa Gymnasium in Barueri, Brazil, live on FOX Sports 1.
To see more on how this fight came together, as well as a historical look at Shields' rise to prominence, click here and here.