Should Demian Maia get a Welterweight Title fight next after his latest win at UFC 198? If not, why? And what fight would you book him in next instead?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I hate to do this, but I’m going to list in no particular order some welterweights who deserve the shot before Maia.
Carlos Condit – even if he isn’t holding his own career hostage in exchange for a title shot. Condit beat Lawler (who also lost to Hendricks twice but whatever) in January in a “Fight of the Year” contender. Condit vs. Lawler 2 should have been put together immediately, no differently than how Mauricio Rua got a second shot at Lyoto Machida. Plus, it’s Carlos Condit, dude. Of course he should get the next title shot.
Stephen Thompson – He destroyed Johny Hendricks. Robbie Lawler lost twice to Hendricks (hey, don’t yell at me because a couple of judges couldn’t see past their glaucoma). Had Condit not gotten his rematch, then Thompson should have been slid into that slot.
Rory MacDonald – Um, did you watch UFC 189? You did? Good. Then you need no further explanation. Oh, and he pulverized Maia.
Johny Hendricks – One of my least favorite fighters, both to watch and to hear talk, but the man beat Lawler twice and had his title (OK, GSP’s title) stolen from him.
Georges St-Pierre – Look, if the UFC books Robbie Lawler against any human being, and then as the ring intros are being delivered by Bruce Buffer, if St-Pierre climbs on to the apron and says that he wants to fight, then the challenger should be escorted to the back (in handcuffs if need be), and GSP should get the fight right then and there. If GSP goes to ATT with Dana White and Kim Winslow in tow and demands a title shot, it should happen right there in South Florida. I believe this is what the WWE calls Money in the Bank, and GSP should be walking around with a big damn briefcase.
Ben Askren – Because Funky.
But of course, Tyron Woodley, the one guy who Maia certainly has a better case than, is getting the shot. The dreary, black and white, Reebok clad, soul-suckingly dull, Ramsay Bolton inspired universe in which the UFC is currently parked in order to raise their valuation before selling the company is the world we live in. That’s the universe that hands title shots to Tyron Woodley because Johny Hendricks can’t avoid Whatchamacallit bars and to Michael Bisping because he got Yoel Romero bonus time in between rounds three and four against Anderson Silva but whatever.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
He’s one fight away. Don’t get me wrong, Demian Maia’s five fight winning streak has been both impressive and dominant. He dispatched Matt Brown, a top 10 welterweight in the world, with relative ease at UFC 198. Maia needing one more fight, despite his dominance two years, is due largely to the lack of enough big wins to put him ahead of a couple of other contenders.
Maia’s complained the UFC is using him as a gatekeeper, and that would be a really good explanation for why he’s lacking many elite-name victories on his record. But fair or not, that doesn’t make it any less true. Yakovlev, LaFlare, Magny, Nelson, and Brown have gone down like dominoes in Maia’s last five fights, but there isn’t a name on this list that I’d be comfortable saying would ever challenge for the Welterweight Title (although Magny is starting to give rise to the idea he possibly could). Now, there’s no shame losing to Rory MacDonald, one of the best talents in that weight class, but it’s still a loss. Dropping one to the immortal Jake Shields? Not the best look.
If I were playing matchmaker, I’d put Maia in line behind Carlos Condit, and the winner of Stephen Thompson vs. Rory MacDonald. The line gets obliterated if Georges St-Pierre decides he wants a piece of the action. At best though, Maia is third in line. His best argument for a title shot is that he probably deserves one over the next challenger, Tyron Woodley. A fight between Woodley and Maia made all the sense in the world right now, but unfortunately Woodley gets to ride his January 2015 split decision win over Kelvin Gastelum and his October 2015 weight snafu by Johny Hendricks to an undeserved crack at the belt. Neither he nor Maia have the requisite big wins that should put them there, so a fight between the two would have helped to sort out some things in the division.
Maia’s next fight should come against the winner of Hendricks and Gastelum. The timing works out right, and Maia is probably going to have to wait for the winner of the Thompson-MacDonald match to fight for the championship. This is of course, assuming GSP doesn’t come back and fight to take back a title he never lost (except to Hendricks, but of course, judges). Maia’s close, but his dominance over not-quite-contenders hasn’t earned him a championship fight yet. One more step up the ladder should do it.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
No, because I would give the winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Stephen Thompson the next title shot. Maia is very good, but he’s not very exciting. He’s extremely effective, but guys like that only get title shots when there’s no one else in the division you can turn to. That sucks for them, but that’s just the way it is. Thompson is much more exciting and is coming off a highlight reel win over Johny Hendricks. And MacDonald is 3-1 in his last four fights (including a win over Maia) As for who Maia should fight next, there’s a lot of possibilities. The Hendricks-Kelvin Gastelum winner, Carlos Condit, Gunnar Nelson, Neil Magny. I know Maia’s already beaten Magny and Nelson but what else can you do? Maia has beaten most of the top 10, he’s deserving of a title shot. The problem is, he’s not more deserving than any of the top guys in the division. I would put Maia against the Hendricks-Gastelum winner myself.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’m a bit disgusted with the UFC completely ignoring the voice of the fans by booking Tyron Woodley for a title shot with Robbie Lawler, as there are three fighters with recent resumes strong enough to receive the shot ahead of him in Maia, Carlos Condit, and Stephen Thompson, but what can I do? Maybe I can find out whatever dirt Woodley has on either Dana White or the Fertittas since I don’t know any other way he’s getting this shot…
What happens with Maia completely depends upon how a couple of fights turn out. The title fight of course as well as Thompson’s bout with Rory MacDonald. If Thompson wins, he’s getting the next title shot regardless of what happens between Lawler and Woodley. No one will be able to deny him that opportunity at that point as he’ll have taken out a former champion in Johny Hendricks as well as the UFC’s number one ranked challenger which would give him seven wins in a row. That’s a resume that easily beats Maia’s.
If MacDonald emerges victorious, we’ll have to see what happens with the title fight. If Woodley emerges victorious, MacDonald will end up getting the shot as he owns a victory over Woodley and Maia while also being a more visible fixture to fans than Maia. If Lawler wins though it would be a difficult sell to give MacDonald a third fight against Lawler after having fallen short on his two previous encounters with the Ruthless one. In that case Maia should be the choice. Luckily for Maia, this is the scenario that seems most likely to play out… at least in my opinion.
If he doesn’t end up getting a title shot there are two options worth looking at. A fight with Condit would be an extreme clash in styles that I can’t help but have an intense curiosity to see unfold. Condit has been leaning towards retirement though and the longer that he remains silent the more inclined I’m to believe that he isn’t coming back. So the most likely scenario is to match Maia up with the winner of Hendricks and Kelvin Gastelum which takes place at UFC 200. Regardless of who he faces out of those three, I guarantee that he’ll get a title shot if he can walk out with a victory.
[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]
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