Somewhere along the way, Demian Maia has become one of the most underrated fighters in the whole of MMA. Despite having convincing wins over Chael Sonnen, Jon Fitch, Rick Story and Ed Herman, he is very rarely considered to be amongst the elite in his division. Nobody could quite believe it when he got the title shot against Anderson Silva, but since the debacle that was the main event of UFC 112, he has built a good 6-2 record.
There are not many MMA fighters in the entire world that can match his level of Jiu-Jitsu and the improvements he has made in his wrestling and striking have made him a great force in the welterweight division, where he is currently unbeaten and looking better than ever. Though he's clearly not getting any younger, Maia has found the form of life and become the well-rounded fighter he needed to be to threaten the very best in the world. His win over Jon Fitch solidified him as a top 5 fighter within his division, and a decisive victory over Jake Shields should put him in line for a shot at the winner of Georges St. Pierre V Johnny Hendricks.
With Shields, Maia is facing a man not too dissimilar to himself with the fact that Shields' strength is clearly his grappling. Shields is far from an adequate striker and I believe Maia will use the edge there to dominate the fight and secure a convincing decision victory over the former Strikeforce champion. Shields has been anything but convincing since entering the UFC and has only really looked decent in his decision victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama. To this day, his greatest win remains his victory over Dan Henderson three years ago, but he just hasn't looked the same fighter since entering the UFC.
This is a fight Maia has to win if he want to fight for gold again and it's a fight he should win to prove he belongs amongst the best in the world. It was a long time ago, but he ran through Chael Sonnen as if he was a nobody and he had few troubles on his way to beating Fiitch, so it would be foolish to make Maia an afterthought. If he gets past Shields, then a bout with the loser of Carlos Condit-Matt Brown would be my choice or perhaps even Rory MacDonald. But whatever happens, it's about time Demian Maia receives credit for being a top tier fighter who can hang with the best of them.