There was a time not so long ago where Demian Maia’s most memorable fight was the travesty of a UFC middleweight title contest he had with champion Anderson Silva in April 2010. That bout, which took place during the UFC’s first and thus far only trip to Abu Dhabi, is remembered more for Silva’s bizarre antics than for any actual combat that occurred. It was an unfortunate situation for Maia, who did try to generate some offense during the fight’s latter rounds (to no avail), and it became the UFC’s most egregious example of a champion expressing his dissatisfaction with the company’s matchmaking.

At the time, a lot of people found it hard to blame Silva for his behavior. After all, Maia’s position in a middleweight title fight had less to do with his ranking in the division and more to do with the fact that Silva had defeated literally every other 185-pound contender in the company. The UFC had already served up Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, neither of whom were competitive opponents, as questionable title challengers in previous fights with Silva, and Maia’s equally debatable championship credentials coupled with the fight’s lack of action left many fans with a bad taste in their mouths.

While both Leites and Cote were eventually ousted from the UFC (though Cote has earned another contract from the promotion and is 2-1 since), Maia was retained by the company. He won three more middleweight fights following the Abu Dhabi debacle, but also suffered losses to fellow contenders Mark Muñoz and Chris Weidman. It was after the loss to Weidman that Maia decided to change things up in his career by announcing he would drop to welterweight for his next fight.

Maia has returned to his winning ways since making the cut to 170 pounds, going 3-0 in the division against Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch. Of the three victories, his win over Fitch was the most surprising. For years, Fitch was considered one of the three or four best welterweights in MMA. From 2005 through 2010, he went a remarkable 13-1 in the UFC, with the one loss coming to welterweight champion and pound-for-pound mainstay Georges St-Pierre. Before facing Maia, Fitch did suffer another loss—a knockout at the mighty hand of Johny Hendricks—but was nevertheless still revered as one of the division’s top fighters.

Not only did Maia defeat Fitch, he dominated him. Not only did Maia dominate Fitch, he beat Fitch at his own grappling-centric game, not conceding even an inch of space to the American Kickboxing Academy product throughout the fight’s 15 minutes. Where Fitch usually played the role of the aggressor in his fights, he was decidedly on the defensive for the majority of this contest, unable to really generate any sort of sustained attack against Maia. Needless to say, the tarnish from Maia’s fight with Silva had completely disappeared by the time he was through with Fitch, and Maia was placed fifth in the UFC’s welterweight rankings for his efforts.

Next, Maia is slated to fight Josh Koscheck, another longtime UFC veteran who once fought for the welterweight title. Koscheck has struggled in his recent fights, losing his last two to Robbie Lawler and Johny Hendricks, respectively, but overall is 2-2 since his title-fight loss to GSP and is slotted 10th in the UFC’s welterweight rankings. Despite his age (35) and recent results, Koscheck remains a serious threat to those fighters who might overlook him. He has always possessed some of the division’s best wrestling but, unlike Fitch, also has demonstrated the ability to finish fighters standing, so Maia won’t just be able to out-grapple Koscheck and hope for a win.

So, if Maia is able to get past Koscheck, is it finally time for him to get a shot at the welterweight title? A win over “Kos” would put Maia at 4-0 at 170 pounds with two straight victories over top-10 opposition. At present, there are five other fighters between Maia and GSP in the UFC’s rankings: Hendricks (who will likely get the next shot at the belt), Carlos Condit (who already lost to GSP), Jake Ellenberger (a legit contender) and Rory MacDonald (GSP’s teammate). Ellenberger and MacDonald will fight in July to sort out their positioning, but a MacDonald win would definitely complicate things from a matchmaking perspective. This would leave Maia as the lone welterweight in the top five who hasn’t already fought GSP, isn’t his teammate and doesn’t have a recent loss.

Of course, this all presupposes St-Pierre defends his title against Hendricks, which is far from a guarantee. Maia would, however, provide an interesting challenge for either fighter. Against GSP, he might be able to employ a similar strategy to that he used against Fitch—using his comparatively larger frame to control GSP and try to win on points. He shocked the MMA world with his treatment of Fitch, so who’s to say he wouldn’t have similar success against St-Pierre? Hendricks would present a similar set of challenges to Maia as he will face from Koscheck, just amped up several degrees. Both are tremendous wrestlers, but Hendricks is several years younger than Koscheck and therefore will be more physically prepared to handle Maia’s grappling assault. Both have shown MMA fans the power in their hands, but few in the sport have become known for their ability to put away an opponent with a single punch more than Hendricks. Maia’s best bet there would be to try to put Hendricks on his back, where his fists won’t do as much damage, and work for a submission.

We’ve always known Demian Maia to be a talented fighter, but he seems to have unleashed a new, more aggressive side of himself since his debut at welterweight. Some perhaps thought his move to 170 would not yield positive results, since Maia was never able to truly break through to the elite level at middleweight, despite his championship opportunity. He’s proven those doubters wrong, and if he gets past Koscheck in August, he deserves another chance to compete for a UFC belt.

Photo: Demian Maia (Sherdog)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.

  • Tom

    Awesome article Eric.
    I’m backing Maia. No reason other than I think he’s awesome. And I don’t like Koscheck!
    Should be a great fight either way.