Top-10 UFC welterweight Demian Maia finds himself in must-win territory this weekend at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 finale against Alexander Yakovlev. The Brazilian veteran is on the first two-fight losing skid of his career and is desperate for a victory in order to remain a major player in a deep 170-pound division. Maia was initially slated to face Mike Pierce, but now gets the promotional newcomer after Pierce was forced out due to a broken hand.
The 36-year-old Maia saw his momentum stalled back at Fight Night 29 when he dropped a close split-decision verdict to Jake Shields in his native Brazil. The loss snapped a three-fight win streak and derailed talk of a potential title shot. In his last fight, Maia dropped a unanimous decision to Rory MacDonald in an entertaining affair that earned Fight of the Night at UFC 170.
The former middleweight title challenger is currently ranked no. 8 in the welterweight division, and can put himself back in line for a major opportunity by producing an impressive effort against Yakovlev. Maia is a veteran of 18 Octagon appearances and holds notable victories against Chael Sonnen, Dong Hyun Kim and Jon Fitch. Maia’s stellar ground game has always been his calling card, with nine submission finishes in his 18 career victories.
Yakovlev punched his ticket to the UFC thanks to a unanimous decision victory over the hard-hitting Paul Daley in his last fight. The Russian fighter is on a three-fight win streak. “Bad Boy” has a strong Sambo and freestyle wrestling background and has eight knockouts and eight submissions to his credit in 21 career victories. He will likely want to keep the matchup against Maia standing in order to avoid his opponent’s superior jiu-jitsu skills.
This is one of the more notable matchups on the main card and should be an intriguing contest. Maia’s time in the UFC could conceivably come to an end if he were to drop a third straight fight against a relative unknown. Meantime, Yakovlev can make quite a statement in his Octagon debut if he’s able to pull off the upset in hostile territory against a top-10 opponent.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports