Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Demian Maia and Ryan LaFlare stepped into the cage last night (March 21, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 62 inside Ginasio do Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Whether or not Maia was still a top contender came into question ahead of the main event match. He may have won his last fight, but it was far from the most impressive showing of his career, and Maia needed to remind fans of his skill set.
LaFlare has looked quite impressive thus far in his UFC career, as he's won four straight clear decision victories. Still, this was a major step up, as Maia was the first ranked fighter he has faced.
The two fighters opened the bout by exchanging some quick combinations, with LaFlare proving to be the slightly quicker man. After having enough of that nonsense, Maia shoot for a single leg takedown and landed it pretty easily.
While LaFlare showed pretty nice hips with his butterfly guard, it was only a matter of time until Maia moved into mount. Though he absorbed some shots, LaFlare did prevent Maia from taking his back, as LaFlare managed to elbow escape back to guard. For the rest of the round, Maia controlled LaFlare from top position.
A dominant start for the Brazilian.
Similarly to the first round, the combatants spent the first couple minutes mostly missing their punches. Though LaFlare stuffed Maia's first shot, the jiu-jitsu specialist timed a double leg well not long after and dragged his opponent to the mat.
On top, Maia's brilliant pressure passing game was more than enough to overcome LaFlare's guard. LaFlare was doing plenty of thing well -- and would likely have returned to his feet plenty of times against a lesser foe -- but Maia's hips were incredible, and kept his opponent down.
Once again, Maia took the round in utterly controlling fashion.
While the third round started much like the first two, LaFlare was able to reverse Maia's takedown attempt and take top position. Before LaFlare could do much with the position, Maia rolled LaFlare into the x-guard, transitioned into a calf slicer, and used it to reverse position.
Then just seconds later, Maia had secured the mount once more.
Striking for about a minute and half then land a takedown. Rinse and repeat. For the fourth time in a row, Maia's strategy remained the same, and it worked once again to start the fourth round.
This time around, Maia attacked with an arm triangle choke. It looked very tight, but LaFlare hung tough and prevent Maia from moving into side control and thus finishing the hold. Regardless of that moral victory, Maia was far ahead of LaFlare on the scorecards.
The physical toll of the last four rounds clearly caught up to Maia between rounds, as the Brazilian was very tired to start the fifth. LaFlare was really connecting on his shots, and Maia was slow to stand, which eventually cost him a point.
In the end, it doesn't really matter.
Outside of the ugly fifth round -- which I'm sure Maia will catch some heat for -- Maia put on a pretty terrific performance. His grappling was utterly dominant for much of the fight, as Maia took down LaFlare and shut the wrestler's scrambles down with ease.
Maia may be the best top player in the sport. Once he got on top of LaFlare, his ridiculously smooth pressure passing was incredible. LaFlare is excellent at creating space, but Maia was constantly flattening his hips and moving into the mount.
While Maia may have gassed badly in the last round, he did show much improved conditioning. For four straight rounds, Maia kept up with and pushed past a fighter known for his conditioning.
Not bad for a fighter in his late thirties.
For the jiu-jitsu ace's next scrap, he deserves a fellow top 10 contender. For example, a striker vs grappler match up against Tarec Saffiedine would be an interesting battle.
Unfortunately for LaFlare, Maia was a very bad match up for him. His striking style leaves him quite open to takedowns, but since he's normally the one pushing for takedowns, it hasn't yet been an issue for him until now.
In addition to having his scrambling ability shut down, even LaFlare's top game was proven ineffective in the short time he was able to deploy it. In short, LaFlare just wasn't able to compete with Maia on the mat, which is where both of their styles tend to take fights.
After this loss, LaFlare might need to take a slight step back in competition, perhaps against another fighter around his ranking such as Jordan Mein.
At UFC Fight Night 62, Demian Maia put on a dominant display of grappling in the main event. Can the jiu-jitsu fighter make his way to the title?
For complete UFC Fight Night 62 "Maia vs LaFlare" results and play-by-play, click HERE!