Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) visits the Southeastern region of Brazil this Wednesday evening (Oct. 9, 2013) for UFC Fight Night 29: "Maia vs. Shields," which takes place at Jose Correa Gymnasium in Barueri.
The main event features two former title challengers looking to climb further up the welterweight ladder as decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion Demian Maia takes on another excellent submission practitioner, Jake Shields. Both competitors would like to get noticed after this bout and book their place among the other combatants who can be considered as championship threats.
Their peers include Brazilian powerhouse Erick Silva and the durable Dong Hyun Kim, who meet in the co-main event to determine which man can come out on top and keep moving forward at 170 pounds.
With the majority of this card's excitement focused on these two bouts, let us look into the near future and map out what a victory on Wednesday night might mean for these four Welterweight standouts.
Maia debuted with UFC in 2007, with his first fight taking place at UFC 77, where he commenced a five-fight submission streak over victims such as Jason MacDonald, Nate Quarry and Chael Sonnen.
After he hit a brick wall (more so a fist) in Nate Marquardt, he would win one more and see his will and hunger evaporate when he met Anderson Silva in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112 and was, for all intents and purposes, tooled.
Now more than three years later when we thought it would be unlikely for Maia to compete for a title again, he is in the prime of his career after moving down in weight, and having a size advantage in a division where he is undefeated (3-0). His striking is better, he is stronger when using his grappling and he has broken out of his timid style and now is seen as an aggressor.
With some of the best jiu-jitsu in the sport today, if Maia can submit another world jiu-jitsu champion in Shields, it would increase his chances to be considered as the top division contender. He does have a handful of peers who are ready to greet him, but if Maia can finish the third opponent in four fights in front of his faithful, he would make a huge statement and put his peers on watch en route to his second title shot in multiple divisions.
It would not hurt to ask Shields to put on somewhat of an exciting performance because after all, the former Strikeforce and Elite XC Welterweight Champion and Cesar Gracie-trained standout needs one.
His bouts inside the Octagon have not been that entertaining, minus a mildly received bout with Georges St. Pierre for the title at UFC 129 and a short, quick fight with Jake Ellenberger, who won via knockout in just over a minute. It is not exactly fair to Shields to say that was the most exciting fight he had, besides the personal struggle he went through yet that fight would be the Jake Shields fight anyone would watch over if they had to during his time with the promotion.
If Shields could dominate a submission ace like Maia on the ground, that would be an influential moment in which he could look back on to remind himself that he can once again get to a championship fight. That would be his best possible scenario. If Shields can win by stoppage because of strikes, all the better however it seems highly unlikely since the Californian has not been awarded the victor by that method since 2007.
Beating and dominating Maia in his home country of Brazil would all but secure Shields place in the company, too, with only two wins out of his last five bouts including a "No Contest" where Shields had his win over Ed Herman overturned at UFC 150 after failing a post-fight drug test. Even just a win, no matter how it comes, would help Shields, though one cannot help but wonder if one more loss could be enough of a reason to cut ties with the veteran.
The exuberant and gifted Silva is expected to be a major player moving forward however he has failed to capture "the big one". His chance was against Jon Fitch and though he should not be faulted for his loss as well as outlining the positive aspects he learned from that fight, it would have propelled him to start pushing at the front of the line to get to the champion.
He did bolster through Jason High in his next fight and if Silva cannot get a massive win over an experience mainstay like Dong Hyun Kim, he could get used to facing the previous opposition.
To his credit, "Indio" has six finishes in his last six, with three of those in the Zuffa banner and is an undeniable force that is a tough fight for any welterweight. A huge performance would guarantee Silva his place in the top ten and it solidifies a win over a "somebody" rather than mid-level opposition. It would finally see him breakout into his full potential, and start driving towards the top competitors in the division in order for him to take names.
Dong Hyun Kim
The South Korean beast was making a case for a title shot until Carlos Condit took that away from him at UFC 132 and delivered him his first career loss. "Stun Gun" has rebounded well and only tasted defeat once during his next four fights, which was a freak injury 0:47 seconds into his fight with Maia at UFC 148 over a year ago.
If Kim can neutralize Silva's attack and enforce his will over Silva anywhere the fight goes, it puts Kim right back into the hunt and shapes him as a hazard for his fellow counterparts.
Unlike Silva, Kim has wins over notable opponents like T.J. Grant, Matt Brown, Amir Sadollah, Siyar Bahadurzada and Nate Diaz, but he can be compared to his opponent since "Stun Gun" is looking for that big score against a top fighter at their weight class. Kim would need to string a few other victories together afterwards and that would see him in a good opportunity to start looking towards those he must conquer for his shot at the gold.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 29 fight card on fight night (Oct. 9, 2013) right here, starting with the Facebook "Prelims" at 4 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 5 p.m. ET and then main card action (also on FOX Sports 1), which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET.