We have just celebrated the 100th birthday of the legend that is Helio Gracie; the founding father of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and it is apt that the next big UFC event is headlined by two fighters known for their ground game. Of Shields’ 28 wins 10 have been by submission and during his career thus far has formed what he calls ‘American Jiu-Jitsu’ and even has that tattooed on his forearm. From Maia’s 18 wins 9 have come by submission so a far higher rate than Shields but what’s more impressive is how good he has looked since dropping down to 170.
With the fight taking place in Brazil you could say this is a contest between BJJ and AJJ. Considering Shields has fought many times internationally has actually never fought in Brazil and this isn’t something he is looking forward to. In a recent interview he even went so far as to say he is not looking forward to a ‘hostile’ crowd but went on to say how he understands the Brazilian culture to always back their own guy.
I also think that having a contest between two competitors known for their submission / ground game is well placed in Brazil where Jiu-Jitsu is very much appreciated with crowds who are very educated on this martial art. Had this main event been placed elsewhere I believe there would have been a higher chance of boo’s to start should they go to the ground. It’s clear that arenas outside of Brazil are still filled with many ‘casual fans’ that just don’t understand or appreciate the Jiu-Jitsu aspect of MMA.
The question that I kept thinking about when this main event first got announced is what is at stake here? Who has more to gain with a win? The answer for me is Maia. If he wins that would be his 4th in a row since dropping down to welterweight. His first two bouts were both finished in the first round when he defeated Dong Hyun Kim with punches to the rib ending that fight in a TKO and then submitting Rick Story with a neck crank. He then went on to out wrestle Jon Fitch in what was a very entertaining decision victory in his 3rd bout. This has propelled him to #4 in the official UFC rankings. A win here by stoppage, and you could easily argue a case for a title shot. Worth noting that this is also Maia’s first 5 round main event fight since he lost to Anderson Silva at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. The UFC obviously puts a lot of stock in him and rightly so given his recent performances.
What then to make of Shields? What’s in it for him? On the outside looking in, it seems as though he is fighting an opponent who is arguably better than him in his strongest skillset i.e. grappling / Jiu-Jitsu and you have to imagine that over the course of 25 minutes the fight will eventually go to the ground at some point. I think if Shields does pull off the victory then it would get him back into the upper end of the top 10 and maybe he can start to claw his way back to another title shot. His last performance vs Tyron Woodley even had UFC president Dana White tweeting how awful it was which is never a good omen but off of that he is still in a UFC main event on Fox Sports 1 so the opportunity is there for him to take.
With Shields at 34 and Maia at 35 you have to think this is make or break for either fighter. A loss here just keeps that one last crack at a title further away. With GSP and Hendricks to fight next month at UFC 167, the opportunity is there for Maia to make a serious claim for a title shot but also for Shields to show he is still relevant in this division.
I think the fight will at some point eventually go to the ground and I favour Maia to come out on top here. He looks like a very strong welterweight whereas Shields always looks like he gives up way too much during his weight cut and I think this could play a major role over the course of a 25 minute fight. I think Maia would also have the gas tank to finish the fight strong in the latter rounds and take a decision if it comes to that. Let’s not forget the really bad record international fighters have versus Brazilians when fighting in UFC events held IN Brazil. But who’s superstitious anyway?
This is Mixed Martial Arts In My Opinion
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