After an impressively dominant victory over Gunnar Nelson at UFC 194, Demian Maia finds himself in the conversation for a title shot in a crowded and unclear welterweight field. The one-time UFC Middleweight Title challenger wants to earn that shot, and has a couple names in mind for his next opponent whom he believes could get him there.
“I want to fight with somebody that takes me to the title if I win,” Maia said while in Las Vegas for UFC 195 earlier this month (transcribed by BloodyElbow.com). “I think the fights [that] would make more sense would be [Tyron] Woodley or Matt Brown, who is tied near with me in the rankings and Woodley also.
“That’s the fights that would make more sense, but, of course, if I can choose today, I would say I don’t want to fight with those guys. I want to fight for a title.”
Maia’s one title opportunity came against Anderson Silva in Abu Dhabi at the now-infamous UFC 112 event. Silva drew heavy criticism for toying with Maia and not doing much else but taunting and moving throughout the fight, and Maia himself wasn’t able to stop him from doing just that. Should he get a shot at the 170 lb. title more than six years after that fight, Maia thinks he’d be much more of a challenge to whomever is holding that particular belt.
“I just feel like I’m just more matured than last time,” Maia said. “That was almost six years ago. It was April 2010. In this time frame, you change, completely. Especially [because] I am a guy who likes to learn. I love this sport, I love jiu-jitsu, I love MMA, and I love to learn everyday.
“In that fight, I came in totally as an underdog. And if I go to a [title] fight again, even if I’m not the favorite, everybody will know that I got the chance to win. Everybody will know that if I take the fight to the ground, I got a chance to win, a big chance. And I believe that.”
Penick’s Analysis: Maia’s absolutely in the conversation right now, and the Woodley fight seems like a clear one to make. The winner of that moves themselves one-step closer, neck and neck with Johny Hendricks should Hendricks defeat Stephen Thompson, and they’ll have a very compelling case for that title fight. I’m expecting the UFC to try booking the Robbie Lawler-Carlos Condit rematch next, which means Woodley’s going to need to fight again, and if Maia wants a title fight he’s going to need to beat top five opposition. Book it, let’s see it play out.
[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]
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