Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Demian Maia and Belal Muhammad will duel this weekend (Sat., June 12, 2021) at UFC 263 inside Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Sad as it makes me to admit, Maia’s career is coming to an end. The 43-year-old Brazilian competed just once last year, losing painfully to Gilbert Burns prior to “Durinho’s” attempt to capture UFC gold. In general, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace is still lethal on the mat, but his ability to maintain control for the full 15 minutes is compromised. Muhammad, meanwhile, parlayed a four-fight win streak into a short-notice main event opposite Leon Edwards, only for an eye poke to end that opportunity (see it). Fortunately, this is still a big step up for “Remember The Name,” a chance to significantly ascend up the ladder.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 211), Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 21), Ben Askren (UFC Fight Night 162), Neil Magny (UFC 190), Rick Story (UFC 160), Gunnar Nelson (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 214), Gilbert Burns (UFC Fight Night 170), Colby Covington (UFC Fight Night 119), Rory MacDonald (UFC 170), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: Maia’s strategy has been the same for well over a decade now. He’s a genuine master on the mat, and in the cage, that tends to boil down to the tried-and-true sequence of single-leg takedown to back mount to rear-naked choke.
Interestingly enough, Muhammad hasn’t been forced to wrestle defensively all that often. He tends to push the pace to the point that his opponent doesn’t have the energy to wrestle, which is definitely a risk given Maia’s age.
To avoid slowing down, Maia has to spend as much time as possible in great position. Realistically, Muhammad is going to have a tough time denying Maia’s single leg takedown chain — most everyone does! Maia has to remain really efficient and waste little energy until he’s on the leg, at which point it should be a matter of time until he gains top position.
In an ideal scenario, Maia could avoid any potential cardio woes by strangling Muhammad early. If that doesn’t happen though, Maia has to focus on controlling Muhammad and limiting scrambles, which will extend his ability to wrestle without fatiguing.
Record: 18-3 (1)
Key Wins: Lyman Good (UFC Vegas 3), Tim Means (UFC Fight Night 121), Randy Brown (UFC 208), Jordan Mein (UFC 213)
Key Losses: Geoff Neal (UFC Fight Night 143), Vicente Luque (UFC 205), Alan Jouban (UFC Fight Night 90)
Keys to Victory: Muhammad is a fighter who’s made his name on grit. The man is tough and well-conditioned to the point that even when he doesn’t hold any true technical advantage, he’s often able to will his way to victory. Muhammad has a fine line to walk in this battle: making Maia work is the top priority, but he cannot be so aggressive that he gives Maia easy opportunities to advance his grappling.
On the feet, Muhammad would be wise to stalk his opponent. It’s more fatiguing to move backwards than forward, and if Muhammad is advancing, he’s less likely to be backed into the fence. Maia will likely stay evasive and circle rather than exchange, which is where calf kicks can come into play. While stalking, Muhammad would also be wise to target his right hand towards the mid-section rather than head.
At some point, Muhammad will likely be taken down, and that’s when the priority is scrambling back up. There’s a good chance Maia is able to contain him for a long period of time, but even that’s acceptable if Muhammad is able to make his foe work without getting strangled in the process.
Whenever Muhammad does create a scramble and escape, that’s an opportunity to fire.
Only one man is looking to climb the Welterweight ladder.
Maia has been pretty clear about his fighting future. He has his eyes set on the all-time UFC wins record, and there is a chance he achieves that goal. Otherwise, Maia understands that he’s no longer chasing the title, and he’s only got a few fights left. If he comes up short here, retirement would not at all be surprising.
On the flip side, Muhammad is trying to make his run! The 32-year-old veteran is in his prime right now, and “No Contest” aside, he’s won four bouts in a row. Another win here advances him into the Top 10, and more important, it likely sets him up with a foe in the immediate title mix.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 263 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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At UFC 263, Demian Maia and Belal Muhammad will throw down. Which man will have his hand raised?