UFC 211: Why Demian Maia is Welterweight’s Conor McGregor

UFC 211 Demian Maia Jorge Masvidal UFC 215
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Demian Maia will put his hopes for a title shot at risk when he takes on rising welterweight Jorge Masvidal, who has everything to gain at UFC 211.

You have to feel for Demian Maia. Riding back-to-back submission victories against ranked welterweights Carlos Condit and Matt Brown, he was told by UFC president Dana White that he would be next in line for a title shot against either Tyron Woodley, or Stephen Thompson following their rematch.

Things didn’t work out as planned for Maia. Offered a fight against Robbie Lawler in January, the Brazilian declined, as he was told he could wait on the sidelines for his shot at the belt. Now, Maia has concluded staying out of the limelight will only diminish his chances at receiving a title shot, which is why he took this fight against Jorge Masvidal.

Jorge Masvidal is finally glad the UFC and himself have come to terms on one thing. They can use ‘Gamebred’ to eliminate the fighters they ‘don’t like.’ True or not, Masvidal’s impressive upset win over Donald Cerrone in January deservedly granted him a shot against a high-ranked fighter at 170-pounds. With Maia quietly sitting at number-two in the division, Masvidal had been assigned his next target.

Welcome to Maia World

Right off the bat let’s make something clear, this won’t be an in-depth look at how Maia uses 3/4 guard, or butterfly hooks to bewilder his opponents. Because to be brutally honest, it’s a beyond complex algorithm which many (including myself) struggle to get a grip of!

When McGregor steps foot inside the Octagon and proceeds to make his opponents look like amateurs, many are left in awe. “Who has done that before to Eddie Alvarez? Jose Aldo hadn’t been finished for over ten years, McGregor made it look easy.” It’s much the same with Maia.

Becoming the first man to finish Carlos Condit in almost ten years and the only fighter to make Gunnar Nelson look like a schoolboy on the canvas, you can see why the comparison between Maia and McGregor is made. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenom takes guys out of their comfort zone, and into his world.

McGregor is criticized for being one-dimensional and having ‘no ground game’, but it really doesn’t matter. Against the likes of Alvarez and Chad Mendes, once Conor has stuffed their takedown attempts, they go into panic mode. Plan A didn’t work out, now it’s time to turn to the dreaded Plan B, to stand and trade with the striker, exactly what McGregor wants.

Demian Maia’s overall game is a mirror image of this, with a little twist. Slated for his stand-up, these remarks go out the window when Maia has his opponents on the mat. What comes next is inevitable, panic mode. No sane fighter wants to grapple with arguably the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner to ever grace the sport of MMA, do they?

The Art of Masvidal’s Violence

Originally a back-yard brawler, even in those days Jorge Masvidal evidenced the finesse and meticulous striking which he puts on display every time he steps foot into the Octagon today. Under-appreciated and overlooked prior to his impressive win over Cerrone, ‘Gamebred’ will have a different style of foe to face at UFC 212 in Demian Maia.

For Masvidal, it’s all about stuffing the takedowns that Maia heavily relies on in his fights. We’ve seen this in the past when facing opponents with decent takedown defense, such as Rory MacDonald. With only a 30-percent success rate on his takedowns, often in the later rounds his sloppy attempts can leave him very open. If Masvidal can avoid the takedown early on, and make it past the first round, this is something he will surely feed off.

There’s no doubt that if Masvidal can overcome Maia’s ‘fixed style’ he can certainly win this fight. ’Gamebred’s’ stand-up is light years ahead of what Maia’s is, which is what makes this match-up so interesting. Who can get to the fight to their world, and if they do, can they keep it there?

What It All Means

A lot is on the line for Maia here, and realistically Masvidal doesn’t have much to lose. If Maia does get the win, will he finally get the title shot against Woodley that is beyond overdue? ‘Gamebred’ has other plans, as will he hope to take this opportunity right out of the Brazilian’s hands at UFC 211.