UFC Fight Night: Maia vs Shields Breakdown and Preview

October 9, 2013

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UFC Fight Night: Maia vs Shields Breakdown and Preview



Alexander Lee – “UFC Fight Night: Maia v. Shields” airs live on Sportsnet 360 on Wednesday, October 9.  Coverage begins with the preliminaries at 5 PM (EST) and the main card airing at 8 PM (EST).

 

Preliminary thoughts:

Do you get the impression struggling fighters are kept around solely to be shipped off to Brazil as ritual sacrifices?  Just a theory.

Your contestants on this edition of “Survive Against A Brazilian” will be Garrett Whiteley (0-0 UFC, 7-0), Chris Cariaso (4-3 UFC, 14-5) and David Mitchell (1-3 UFC, 12-3).  Win and you earn the respect (or ire) of the citizens of Barueri.  Consolation prizes include concussions, a pink slip or possibly a broken limb.  Thanks for playing, fellas!

One Brazilian fighter to keep an eye on is Yan Cabral (0-0 UFC, 10-0), considered one of the top prospects at welterweight (read more about him at rankingmma.com).  Cabral might have been the champion of the second season of TUF: Brazil were it not for a hand injury that removed him from the tournament.  Ten men have stood across from him, ten men have tapped out.  He has a win over Kazushi Sakuraba, which beefs up any resume even if doesn’t mean what it used to.  Cabral is the jiu-jitsu ace of Nova União, the next in a long line of killers to come from that camp.

 

Bantamweight Bout: Raphael Assunção (4-1 UFC, 20-4) v. T.J. Dillashaw (4-1 UFC, 8-1)

This fight is more than just an intriguing curtain jerker.  The winner could become the number one contender for the bantamweight title.

Assunção is getting his first taste of main card action, following four wins against tough competition including top contender Mike Easton.  Assunção is exactly the kind of fighter the UFC likes, willing to mix it up on the feet or on the ground.  He will be the biggest test for the relatively inexperienced Dillashaw.

Since losing to John Dodson in the TUF 14 bantamweight finals, Dillashaw has quickly climbed the ladder in his division.  The Alpha Male protégé has blown through the lower tier, including first round finishes of Vaughan Lee and Brazilian favourite Hugo Wolverine.  Big things have been predicted for Dillashaw ever since he turned pro and he’s met, if not surpassed expectations.  He’s always had wrestling to fall back on, but his stand-up gets better with every fight, something he’ll need against the versatile Assunção.

Even though Assunção was raised in the US, expect the Brazilian crowd to be firmly behind him.  They won’t think too highly of Dillashaw who was still in high school when Assunção was starting his career.  With the bantamweight title picture still murky and injuries a fact of life, an impressive performance here gets the winner on the short list.

 

Welterweight Bout: Rousimar Palhares (7-4 UFC, 14-5) v. Mike Pierce (9-3 UFC, 17-5)

When you’re Pierce, a top 15 welterweight who has been toiling away on the undercard against overmatched competition, you have to wonder what the issue is with the matchmaking.  Bad luck?  Punishment?  The perception that he’s boring?  If it’s the latter, then Palhares is the remedy.  You can call Palhares a lot of things, but he’s rarely boring.

It should be fascinating to see what happens when you put a grinder like Pierce in there against a finish hunting, risk taker like Palhares.  Pierce himself has proven deadly when opponents become overeager, as Aaron Simpson learned back in June of last year.  The battle of NCAA Division I wrestlers saw Simpson take the early advantage only to fall to a one punch KO in the second round.  In all, Pierce has won his last four fights.

There is no preparation for the aggressive jiu-jitsu and raw power of Palhares.  It’s one thing to face a BJJ fighter who is looking to control you; it’s another to face one that is looking to tear your limbs from your body.  In any Palhares fight, there’s always the sense that something could go horribly wrong (either to him or his opponent).

Toquinho is making his welterweight debut and it should be interesting to see how the weight cut affects him as he was a short, but massive middleweight.  Pierce would love to steal his thunder and position in the company as this will be Palhares’ fourth straight main card appearance.  For Palhares, this is a chance at instant credibility in a new weight class.

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Fabio Maldonado (2-3 UFC, 19-6) v. Joey Beltran (3-5 [1 NC] UFC, 14-8 [1 NC])

Hey Joe Silva, get out of my head.

Here we have two men who don’t know the meaning of the word “quit”…or at least they did before it was knocked out of their brains.  How do two fighters with losing records land a plum spot on the main card?  By delivering the goods every time they get out there.  Call it cool or call it tragic, but Maldonado and Beltran are both as famous for the beatings they’ve taken as they are for the ones they’ve dished out.

Maldonado was brutalized by Glover Teixeira at UFC 153, taking the first TKO loss of his career.  Of course, he never actually stopped fighting.  The ringside physician wisely called it off, not wanting to be charged with aiding and abetting a murder.  Maldonado is a talented kickboxer and he got his shots in too.  The image of Maldonado continuing to come forward even after absorbing unimaginable punishment is entrenched in my mind.

Beltran can claim a similar feat.  He was on the receiving end of what was statistically the most lopsided round in UFC history, a 71 significant strikes salute courtesy of James Te-Huna.  That was in round 1 and somehow Beltran lasted the whole 15 minutes, swinging to the bitter end.  Te-Huna would later say that it felt like the punches “bounced off his head”.

This won’t be a body building contest and it probably won’t be a technical masterpiece either.  What it will be is a shining example of how MMA isn’t always about dollar bills and belts.  Sometimes it’s just about seeing two big dudes lay waste to each other.  If you’ve never watched Maldonado or Beltran before, make sure you don’t miss this one.

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Thiago Silva (6-3 UFC [2 NC], 15-3 [2 NC]) v. Matt Hamill (10-4 UFC, 11-4)

Not long ago, Silva and Hamill jockeying for position on the fringes of the light heavyweight top ten.  Silva was a knockout machine who fell short against the elite (Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans).  Sadly, he has won just one of his last five fights and two of those became no-contests after Silva tested positive for banned substances.

Hamill was even more promising, stringing together a five fight win streak that included Mark Muñoz, Jon Jones (*cough*), Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz.  A listless effort against Rampage Jackson and a drubbing at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson pushed him into a brief retirement, but he came back in September of 2012 to outpoint Halifax native Roger Hollett.

In short, Silva and Hamill seen it all.  It’s surprising that it has taken this long for them to cross paths.  For the Brazilian fans, Silva and Hamill are recognizable names who are more than capable of putting on an entertaining tilt.  In a light heavyweight division that is currently in a transitional phase, there are plenty of big money fights ahead for the winner.

 

Welterweight Bout: Erick Silva (3-2 UFC, 15-3 [1 NC]) v. Dong-hyun Kim (8-2 [1 NC] UFC, 17-2 [1 NC])

Booking young talent is a balancing act.  Silva is in his physical prime and his performances have proven he can hang with anyone at 170.  There comes a point where there are no easy fights, no opportunities to slowly build up a future star.  You either have it or you don’t.

In his fourth appearance with the UFC, Silva found himself inside the octagon with Jon Fitch, a man who has made a career out of making his opponents look bad.  This was a gamble.  A vintage smothering Fitch performance and the Silva bandwagon would empty quickly.

For a brief moment in the second round, Silva was a world beater.  He out-grappled Fitch, something only BJ Penn and Georges St-Pierre had managed to do in the past.  He worked for a rear naked choke and came close to becoming the first man to submit Fitch.  It wasn’t meant to be.  Fitch’s trademark resilience saw him through the crisis and he battled back to take a decision.  Even in defeat, Silva had looked spectacular.  He would bounce back in his next fight, using flawless jiu-jitsu to manhandle Jason High and earn a “Submission of the Night” bonus.

On Wednesday night, Silva will be dealing with circumstances similar to those surrounding the Fitch meeting.  Kim is a tall welterweight and he’s regarded/reviled for his laborious, one-sided decision victories.  He’s lingered in or around the top 10 of the welterweight rankings for years.  He represents a huge leap in competition, much like Fitch did after Silva had annihilated Charlie Brenneman.  Will Silva finally take that next step towards true contention?

 

Welterweight Bout: Demian Maia (12-4 UFC, 18-4) v. Jake Shields (3-2 UFC [1 NC], 28-6-1 [1 NC])

Four years ago, this would have been a match-up of two of the best middleweights in the world.  Now, Maia and Shields are two of the best welterweights.  Maia looks unstoppable at 170, but don’t forget that this is the same weight class where Shields has had some of his greatest victories.

Hayato Sakurai.  Dave MenneYushin OkamiCarlos ConditMike PylePaul DaleyRobbie Lawler.  Jason MillerDan HendersonMartin Kampmann.  None of these men could defeat Shields.  From 2005-2010, from 170 to 185 and back to 170, he won 15 straight.  He’s never been the most dominant, never been the most exciting, but what he does is win.

Over a decade into his pro career, Maia remains arguably the most gifted BJJ practitioner the modern UFC has ever seen.  For years, it was understood that you just did not go to the ground with him.  Infamous ground and pound master Chael Sonnen found this out the hard way, succumbing to a first round triangle choke.  An ill-fated emphasis on kickboxing lead to mixed results after failing to capture middleweight gold and it seemed like Maia was stuck in limbo: Good enough to keep facing top competition, not good enough to realistically contend.  A drop to welterweight coincided with a rededication to grappling and the results have been miraculous.

Dong-hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch are all famous for their toughness and for being able to control where the fight goes.  Maia handled them like they were students rolling with the master for the first time.  Never had I seen any of those fighters taken down with such ease, especially Fitch who was getting a taste of his own medicine.  For a man who had neutralized so many foes, becoming a glorified training dummy had to have been traumatic.

The UFC still doesn’t quite know what it has with Maia.  His championship bout against Anderson Silva was a disaster due to Maia’s ineffectiveness and Silva’s clowning.  On the other hand, one can’t help but imagine the challenges he might present to GSP (Johny Hendricks), who has never faced anyone quite like Maia.  This Shields fight is as good a litmus test as you can have for Maia’s viability as a contender.

Don’t count out Shields either.  It’s been a tumultuous few years, but he remains one of the most difficult outs at 170.  Deep into his career, he would love to make one last run and remind everyone why he was such a big deal in his pre-UFC days.  Pay close attention if this one goes to the ground; in 36 matches, Shields has never been submitted.

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