Demian Maia knows he can’t afford another setback at this stage of his career, and hopes to get back into title contention with a victory at UFC 170 over Rory MacDonald. It’s not an easy assignment for the Brazilian as he will be facing a talented prospect who is also looking to deliver a solid effort after tasting defeat his last time out.
Maia dropped a close split-decision verdict to Jake Shields at Fight Night 29 that ended a three-fight win streak, derailing a potential welterweight title shot. Maia is hoping to eventually secure his second title opportunity with the promotion as he was previously defeated by Anderson Silva in a middleweight title bout at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.
Maia’s submission game is his calling card, with nine of his 18 career victories having come in that manner. One of those victims was Chael Sonnen, who Maia submitted during the Brazilian’s middleweight tenure. It will be important for him to avoid a pure stand-up matchup against MacDonald and find a way to get “Ares” to the ground so he can try to lock in one of his signature finishes.
MacDonald is a strong 170-pounder who possesses accurate striking techniques and also has a dangerous ground-and-pound game. He was previously viewed as a possible successor to long-time former champion Georges St.Pierre, but saw his stock take a hit at UFC 167 when he was defeated by Robbie Lawler by decision. The 24-year old MacDonald has produced 12 of his 15 career victories by either knockout or submission, and holds notable Octagon victories over B.J. Penn and Nate Diaz.
It would seem that Maia’s best bet for success would revolve around having the matchup mostly contested on the ground, where he could try to put his world-class submission skills to work. If MacDonald is able to get into rhythm in the stand-up department with his stiff, accurate jab and leg kicks, it would likely shape up as a second-straight setback for Maia.
Maia had defeated the likes of Dong-Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch since making the move down to welterweight, but saw that positive momentum snuffed out with the Shields loss in what was a rather tedious five-round affair.
This is a critical encounter for both top-10 competitors. Another loss for the no. 6 ranked Maia could see any hopes of a possible title shot go out the window, and it will be long fall down the welterweight ladder. It’s certainly not something that the 36-year old Brazilian needs at this late stage of his career.
MacDonald needs to impress after the Lawler loss and a dull decision victory over Jake Ellenberger in his last two Octagon appearances. The no. 4 ranked MacDonald can quickly get himself back into the title picture and prove the hype is warranted if he can deliver a strong, winning performance against the dangerous submission ace.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports