By Raphael Garcia
The terms “shark tank” and “immense depth” come to mind when thinking of the UFC welterweight division. The group that features names such as Tyron Woodley, Robbie Lawler, Stephen Thompson, and others has as much talent as a number of the other divisions combined. That’s why watching a fighter rise through the rankings is often a compelling story. However, Demian Maia still flies under the radar, and its high time he gets the recognition he deserves.
It’s hard to present the idea that Maia is an underappreciated fighter, but although he’s known for world-class grappling that has been perfectly refined to fit in mixed martial arts, many would put names such as Lawler, Thompson, or Carlos Condit before him on their list of contenders. That may change with UFC on Fox 21, however, as Condit and Maia will meet in the main event, but before that fight gets here, it’s time we recognize Maia for the greatness that his career represents.
Think back to when Maia faced Anderson Silva for the middleweight title at UFC 112. The bizarre experience that spawned from Silva’s unwillingness to engage led to UFC President Dana White threatening to cut the then- champion. However, some of that blame fell onto Maia’s plate for what was a less-than-attractive main event.
Six years later Maia is 11-4 in the Octagon and only finally getting back to into the title picture. Hiccups against Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald slowed down his push at 170 pounds, but all of that can be overlooked if he defeats Condit. That win may not be enough to vault him over Thompson in the rankings, but he should be the next man in line for a crack at the welterweight title.
In a world where technical striking and highlight reel knockouts are the rage, Maia has a quote about using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in MMA that captures everything that the martial art teaches:
UFC 198. “I just want to go in there and win without him hurting me or me hurting him.”
Fans may not appreciate that, but in a sport where the brashest and the hardest hitters get the most attention; it’s compelling to see a fighter like Maia represent the roots that helped push MMA to where it is now. He may not be the first name that comes up when discussing the title picture at welterweight, but he deserves much more respect than most recognize.
UFC on FOX 21: Condit vs. Maia takes place August 27, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.