Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Demian Maia and Kamaru Usman will clash TONIGHT (May 19, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 129 inside Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile.
A hugely impressive seven-fight win streak saw Maia rise into title contention, but he was unable to implement his vaunted submission game opposite the champion. He attempted to rebound back in October, but Colby Covington drew him into a wild brawl and came out on top.
Maia will face Usman, who is the furthest thing from an easy fight. “The Nigerian Nightmare” has had a remarkably difficult time finding opponents, perhaps because he’s thoroughly dominated his previous seven opponents inside the Octagon and shows no signs of slowing down.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man.
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 211), Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 21), Neil Magny (UFC 190), Rick Story (UFC 160), Gunnar Nelson (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 214), Colby Covington (UFC Fight Night 119), Rory MacDonald (UFC 170), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: Maia is perhaps the sport’s premiere submission fighter, a dominant top grappler and savvy guard player both. Recently, the 40 year old’s biggest issue has been an inability to maintain a high pace for the entire fight, which is definitely a big risk on short-notice.
As a Maia fan, I say this with as much respect as possible: Maia has 10 minutes at most to win this fight. There is absolutely no benefit to conserving energy or trying to employ any type of strategy other than getting Usman to the ground immediately and strangling him.
It won’t work. Opposite Covington, Maia will struck with his opponent for five minutes, did well, but was too fatigued to wrestle in the second round. If he tries to wait to wrestle opposite Usman, the result will be the same, except Usman hits way harder than “Chaos.”
To win, Maia has to land an early takedown and submission. Maia has a chance to win this bout only so long as he is fresh, so he must make the absolute most of that time frame.
Key Wins: Sean Strickland (UFC 210), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Warlley Alves (UFC Fight Night 100), Kamaru Usman (UFC Fight Night 124)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Usman is a brutal fighter and incredible athlete, one of those rare combinations of great physical strength and endless cardio. In the cage, Usman tends to dominate with his wrestler, but he’s also a very crafty kickboxer with heavy hands. In seven fights, Usman has yet to unanimously lose a round inside the Octagon.
Usman has to defend the takedown for about five minutes. This is Maia we’re talking about, so defend the takedown means stop the shot and disengage — don’t let Maia trick him into taking top position early on.
Screw the neat statistic about Usman’s dominance and not losing rounds. Being very cautious and losing the first round does not matter at all if it means that Maia uses most of his energy and is looking shaky. Once Maia is tired, Usman’s far superior kickboxing and punching power will allow him to dominate, and it’s only a matter of time before that damage builds up and ends the fight.
Bottom Line: This is Usman’s chance to finally break into the immediate title mix.
Usman has been dominating fighters with the consistency of a champion despite still being rather young in his professional career. He’s very obviously a special athlete and appears ready for the highest level of competition, and a win here proves Usman’s rank among the elite.
A loss would devastate his momentum.
On the other hand, Maia is a bad dude for agreeing to fight the scariest prospect at 170 lbs. on short-notice while already having lost his previous two fights. Realistically, a win doesn’t exactly put Maia back in title contention — not while Woodley holds the belt. It does assert that Maia is still a top five athlete, and another victory ties Maia for most wins in UFC history. Meanwhile, a loss largely confirms what the previous two fights have showed: Maia is still a very good fighter, but his time of potentially winning the belt is passed.
Tonight at UFC Fight Night 129, Demian Maia and Kamaru Usman will square off in the main event. Which man will see his hand raised?
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 129 fight card below, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.