August 29, 2016

UFC on FOX 21: Maia Is Deserving of the Title Shot, But Is Unlikely To Get It

By Adam Martin

Carlos Condit has fought the best of the best in the UFC since 2009. For seven years he’s been one of the top-ranked welterweights in the entire sport, going 7-5 overall and winning the UFC interim welterweight title, with wins over some of the top names in the division and losses only to elite competition. But despite fighting the best of the best, no one in the UFC had been able to stop him, save for Tyron Woodley due to an injury stoppage TKO. Otherwise, he’s been about as durable as it gets.

That makes Demian Maia’s first-round submission win over Condit in the main event of UFC on FOX 21 that much more special. The Brazilian, who improved to 9-2 as a welterweight in the UFC, took Condit down early in the fight, advanced positions quickly, and was then able to take Condit’s back and sink in a rear-naked choke, needing just 1:52 to hand Condit his first legitimate stoppage loss inside the Octagon. It was arguably the most impressive performance of Maia’s storied career, and the fact it came over a fighter like Condit, who came one scorecard away from becoming the UFC Welterweight Champion against Robbie Lawler at UFC 195 this past January, makes it that much more impressive.

The big win earned Maia a $50,000 bonus for “Performance of the Night” and increased his winning streak to six fights. It should also earn him a title shot, but the UFC is in a difficult position to give him one, even though he is extremely deserving of fighting for championship gold.
That’s because Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is on a seven-fight win streak of his own, including a notable win over newly-signed Bellator fighter Rory MacDonald in his most recent bout, a fight that Thompson absolutely dominated from bell to bell. As much as Maia is deserving of a title shot, Thompson is as well, putting the UFC matchmakers in a tough spot to decide who is going to get it first.

The fact that Woodley, the new UFC Welterweight Champion, is insisting on “money fights” isn’t making things any easier either. We’ve all heard the rumors that former champ Georges St-Pierre is planning a comeback, and if GSP wants an immediate title shot upon his return he should obviously get it because he never lost the belt – he took a hiatus from the sport – and before taking a leave of absence, he was the top pound-for-pound fighter in MMA. If GSP comes back and wants to fight Woodley, the UFC has to give him that fight, although it would put Maia and Thompson back into the mix, and probably matched up against one another. It might not be fair that each man has to win another fight, but that’s what happens sometimes in MMA, as Max Holloway with his nine-fight win streak in the featherweight division knows all too well, as does Tony Ferguson with his eight-fight win streak at lightweight.

There is no guarantee GSP comes back, however, leaving Maia and Thompson the obvious contenders for Woodley’s belt. Even if Woodley doesn’t think of those fighters as “money fights,” it’s clear from social media reaction that the fans are both behind Maia and Thompson, and if GSP doesn’t come back, the UFC will have to choose one of them to fight Woodley next.

It’s a really tough choice for the matchmakers, and they can’t be blamed whatever direction they go. Odds are they give the title shot to Thompson, leaving Maia on the outside looking in once again. It’s possible Maia could sit and wait for a title shot of his own, and it could work out like it did for Woodley, but the difference is Maia is 38, and sitting out a year-and-a-half like Woodley may not be an option. Instead of sitting and waiting, Maia may have to take another fight against a dangerous welterweight like the former champ Lawler, and there’s no guarantee he wins that fight. It puts Maia in a really difficult spot, and all he can do is pray and hope either Thompson comes up with an injury, making him the de-facto #1 contender for Woodley’s belt, or if the UFC straight-up skips Thompson and goes to Maia for the next title fight with Woodley. It’s just really tough to say what they’re going to do.

Maia is absolutely deserving of a welterweight title shot, but because there is another top contender in Thompson waiting in the wings for a title shot of his own, there’s no guarantee Maia gets it. Regardless, Maia’s win over Condit puts him in a great position in the UFC’s 170-pound division, as getting a submission win over an amazing fighter like Condit reaffirms Maia’s spot as a top-five welterweight in MMA. Hopefully he gets the chance sooner or later to prove he’s #1.


UFC on FOX 21: Condit vs. Maia took place August 27, 2016 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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