It’s never too early to name a No. 1 contender. Or maybe in this case, a No. 2 contender.

With his recent victory over Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 28, Glover Teixeira was named the No. 1 contender for the promotion’s light heavyweight championship. Well, the No. 1 contender in the sense that he will fight the winner of the upcoming bout between champion Jon Jones and current No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson, which, in my book, actually make Teixeira the No. 2 contender.

As the crisp fall air of October rapidly approaches, we could find ourselves with another No. 2 contender, only in this case we’re talking about the welterweight division. If he emerges victorious against Jake Shields at UFC Fight Night 29, Demian Maia will be 4-0 at welterweight while beating some stiff competition along the way.

In February, Maia battered Jon Fitch for three straight rounds, beating Fitch at his own game and making the former title challenger look like a white belt. Let’s not forget about how he has already taken down gatekeeper Rick Story, as well as Dong-Hyun Kim, who is 6-2-1 inside the Octagon. If the Brazilian is able to defeat Shields, he will have again defeated someone who fell short against champion Georges St-Pierre.

With credentials like that, it would be hard to not offer Maia the next spot in line for welterweight gold. However, when you then factor in the competition that surrounds him, the final pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place.

Carlos Condit meets Matt Brown at UFC on Fox 9 in a match-up between two key fighters at 170 pounds. With Condit ranked in the top five and Brown ripping off six straight victories, that fight could be looked as a title eliminator, but what hurts their cause is that their fight is in December, whereas the Maia bout takes place two months earlier in October.

The other key welterweight match-up that could disrupt the jiu-jitsu black belt from getting his title shot would be the bout between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. Ever since he has dropped to welterweight, Lawler has been impressive in knocking out Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker. Even though MacDonald’s last performance was more of a snoozefest than the bout of epic proportions as it was advertised, he is still a major threat to compete for gold. Yet again, however, the timing is off. These two men fight on the same card as GSP and Johny Hendricks.

So, with timing factored in, the choice may be simple. In fact, should Maia win and win impressively, the minds of those in control may likely already be made up.

If you don’t think timing is everything, just ask guys like Chael Sonnen or Anthony Pettis. Sonnen backed his way into a title shot by being in the right place at the right time, and Pettis was fortunate enough to land a lightweight title fight about a month after his featherweight title bout fell apart. Although the timing in this case would be a little bit different than that of Sonnen or “Showtime” in that this would be about earning a title shot rather than backing into one, it is equally as important.

While Condit, Brown, MacDonald and Lawler are all worthy of getting the next crack at UFC gold, all of the power is in the hands of the Brazilian. Not only is his resume impressive, but the fact that he gets the first opportunity to impress the higher-ups at the UFC is really what is key here. Should Maia lose or win in a non-impressive fashion, the door will be left open to one of the four aforementioned fighters to walk through and present their case as to why they should be next. The dominoes will fall soon, and fortunately for Maia, his is the finger that will be knocking them over.

Photo: Demian Maia (Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.