UFC 112 - Anderson Silva v Demian Maia - Middleweight Championship Fight
Saturday's UFC Middleweight Championship fight sees arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Anderson 'The Spider' Silva (29-4), take on submission wizard and fellow Brazilian, Demian Maia (13-1).
Silva was scheduled to face another Brazilian, Vitor Belfort, until his shoulder injury promoted Maia to title contender status.
This will be Silva's 11th fight in the Octagon, including five successful defences of his title since brutally knocking out Rich Franklin with his knee at UFC 64, in October 2006. This is even more impressive when you consider he has also made the move up to fight at light heavyweight on two occasions in the UFC, winning by spectacular first round knock out on each occasion with wins over James Irvin and former Ultimate Fighter winner and Light Heavyweight Champion, Forrest Griffin. Silva's notable wins in the UFC include former champion Rich Franklin (twice), former Pride Champion Dan Henderson, former King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts Travis Lutter and Thales Leites.
Demian Maia enters the fight as a heavy underdog. Whereas Maia has maybe the best jiu-jitsu skills in the UFC, the criticism of him is that he is too one-dimensional to be a challenger. Maia has outstanding pedigree in submission fighting, and was 2007 champion in the 77-87kg weight class at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Championship, as well as runner up in 2005. His time inside the Octagon has also been impressive, with six wins in seven fights, four of which were awarded submission of the night honours. However, the questions over his ability to trade punches were proved justified when he fought former contender Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 in August 2009. Despite extensive training with MMA legend Wanderlei Silva in his stand up, Maia was knocked out after only 21 seconds, following a punch by Marquardt. His following fight was at UFC 109 in February 2010, where he showed much improved striking technique on his way to a decision win over Dan Miller.
Despite improvement, Maia's striking is light years away from Silva's. Silva is arguably the most dangerous striker in MMA, whether he is using punches, kicks or his vicious knees. Maia's chance of victory comes on the ground, where, although Silva is a Black Belt in BJJ, he is not on the same level as his compatriot. When Silva fought BJJ black belt Travis Lutter, he looked to be in trouble when he was mounted by the Ultimate Fighter winner, but Lutter was later to be caught in a triangle choke, with Silva using his elbows to force the submission. American Olympic wrestler and former 2 weight Pride Champion, Dan Henderson was able to take Silva to the ground, but ultimately succumbed to a rear-naked choke in the second round.
So, it would appear it is possible to get the champion to the floor, but so far in the UFC nobody has managed to use that to their advantage. In that area the challenger has the best tools to trouble Silva, but he has to get past The Spider's stunning striking arsenal first.