It's going down tonight (Sat., Aug. 27, 2016) at UFC on FOX 21 live from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight mainstays Demian Maia and Carlos Condit lock horns in a main event holding potential No. 1 contender rights. As two of the more polished veterans in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, Maia vs Condit represents one of the last premier matchups at 170 pounds.
With differing skill sets, natural abilities and past experiences to lean on, Maia and Condit may be one of the more lopsided pairings of 2016. Maia uses his world-class grappling skills to grab a hold of an opponent, drag them to the canvas and submit them where they lie, while Condit looks to dissect his foe on the feet with excellent combinations, superior range control, vicious counter attacks and a chin that has faltered under no circumstance.
While Condit has posted a 2-4 Octagon record since defeating Nick Diaz for the interim strap back in 2012, a victory over Maia would surely put him in line to challenge for Welterweight gold sometime next year. As for Maia, who has won five in a row, defeating an elite striker like Condit will prove he's truly ready for any divisional threat. In order to determine who has the edge entering UFC on FOX 21 and what each fighter must do to win, we take a look at the keys to victory for tonight's mian event in Vancouver.
1. Conserve energy...
At 38 years of age, Maia isn't the most stable fighter on the roster when it comes to conditioning and cardio. He certainly remains dangerous in close quarters for as long as he's breathing, but Maia has shown the tendency to fade in fights in which he takes damage on the feet, specifically his matchup with Rory MacDonald back in 2014.
Against a fiery opponent like Condit who can weather anyone's storm for the duration of 25 minutes, Maia must understand that he needs to conserve his energy in order to stay out in front. The Brazilian submission expert is capable of ending the fight in the first few rounds by leaning on his grappling and working for a finish, but Condit hasn't been submitted since losing to Pat Healy back in 2006. Maia is obviously more equipped on the ground than any other fighter Condit has ever faced, but that doesn't mean "The Natural Born Killer" can't defend his neck until the championship rounds.
In order to give himself the best chance to score points and remain a relevant piece in the action by the fourth and fifth frames, Maia must limit his output early and cherry pick his openings for timely takedowns, ground-and-pound and strenuous transitions.
2. Do what he does best...
If Maia can conserve his energy then everything else will fall into place. In the past, we've seen Maia utilize his snake-like ground game to suffocate opponents of all shapes and sizes. This includes the likes of world-class grappling expert Gunnar Nelson, mixed martial arts (MMA) grinder Jon Fitch, Welterweight tough guy Rick Story and even Chael Sonnen during his days as a 185-pound title contender.
At UFC on FOX 21, Condit can easily become the next mouse to be swallowed whole by Maia. With one of the more disappointing takedown defense rates in the division (40 percent), Condit has shown an inability to stop people from taking him down. He was taken down 12 times by Johny Hendricks, seven times by Georges St-Pierre, six times by Martin Kampmann and three times by Tyron Woodley in limited action. Add in the fact that Maia has scored 14 total takedowns during his current five-fight win streak and it's becoming apparent that the Brazilian will have a field day on the ground later tonight.
Condit may be more difficult to finish than most of the guys Maia has strangled or cranked, but he has been stopped via submission before. As long as Maia doesn't exhaust himself early, he'll be able to dictate the pace of the fight and do what he does best.
1. Land early...
It's no secret that Maia is one of the least likely fighters at 170 pounds to produce fireworks on the feet. He's a submission specialist to his very core and often does everything in his power to stay away from exchanging strikes with more polished, skilled and powerful standup artists.
Maia's recipe for success has worked wonders over the past few years, but he is susceptible to being hurt on the feet when his opponent actually lands. That doesn't happen too often considering Maia immediately grabs a hold of his prey, wraps them up in a cocoon and batters them with technique and precise ground work. But if any counter gameplan was going to work against the crafty veteran it would be a striking arsenal that draws Maia out early.
As one of the very best technically sound strikers in the game today, Condit is a fantastic candidate to test the resolve of Maia when the action isn't being played out on the Octagon canvas. All "The Natural Born Killer" has to do is find success for his wacky combinations, pestering distance control and timely power shots early into the fight to throw Maia for a loop this weekend. After all, the quickest way to disrupt a grappler is to punch them directly in the face.
2. Stay off his back...
As previously mentioned, Condit isn't the best takedown defender at 170 pounds. He has repeatedly faltered opposite superior grapplers like Hendricks, GSP, Woodley and even Kampmann. That doesn't mean Condit hasn't shown the ability to get back to his feet, or even ward off serious danger off his back, but he's been taken down plenty over the past four years.
However, against someone like Maia, one takedown may be all it takes to end Condit's night early. Unlike his previous opponents, even the renowned St-Pierre, Maia lives and dies by his ability to grapple. No other fighter in the Welterweight division today incorporates the same degree of precision on the mat as Maia does. That means that Condit needs to do everything he can to stay away from the Brazilian's grasp and keep his butt off the Octagon canvas at UFC on FOX 21.
In order to do so, Condit must play into some of his own strengths while also shying away from things that often put him ahead on the scorecards. For example, Condit should be able to utilize his excellent distance control and unorthodox attacks to keep Maia on his toes and in a constant state of guessing. But if Condit finds himself throwing any flying knees, head kicks or combinations that draw him too close to Maia, the wily submission guru will be sure to pounce.
Prediction: Condit via unanimous decision
MMAmania.com is delivering LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 21 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.