The UFC returns to Brazil for another Fight Night card, this time putting featherweight and welterweight divisionally important bouts on the card. T.J. Dillashaw will look to arguably earn the biggest win of his career against Raphael Assuncao while Dong Hyun Kim tries to play spoiler against Erick Silva.
But what about the main event? Can Jake Shields find a way around the jiu-jitsu of Demian Maia? Will Maia keep it a standing affair? I answer these questions and more with my predictions for Wednesday's action.
What: UFC Fight Night 29: Maia vs. Shields
Where: Ginasio Jose Correa Arena, Barueri, Brazil
When: Wednesday, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 card starts at 5 p.m. and the six-fight main card starts on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m.
It's not clear to me what Shields does significantly better than Maia. He does some parts of offense differently, yes, but better? I'm not so sure. Shields prefers more traditional wrestling takedowns while Maia tends to use trips. Shields is also a little more aggressive on quick, high percentage submissions like guillotines. But is Maia really going to get caught in that? I doubt it. And even if it's contested on the feet, the Brazilian probably has more than Shields to at least score enough points in the eyes of the judges. I'm not sure how this will play out, but most of the scenarios likely end with Maia getting his hand raised.
I'm going to gamble here and take the upset, but it's just that: a gamble. In pure grappling terms, Kim is probably better both at takedowns and maintaining top control, but can he withstand the quick, blitzing striking of Silva? That's a huge question mark. Silva doesn't need a ton of time or space to do quite a bit of damage, but I'm wondering if he'll succumb to the suffocating top game Kim possesses.
I'm not really sure what to say about this fight. Hamill has hardly anything left at this stage of his career and Silva seems unable to have a fight where he isn't getting flagged for something, be it missing weight or submitting phony urine. In the end, I see a dreadful affair where Hamill gets a few takedowns, but probably is folded by the kickboxing of Silva at some point in rounds two or three.
Talk about a coin flip. This is going to be a face punching contest until someone falls, basically. And that could honestly be either of them. I'll go with the Brazilian. I could be wrong, but something tells me he might have a bit more ability to absorb damage, but this one is going to be a pure brawl.
As much as I like the idea of Palhares dropping to welterweight and I'm genuinely curious to see what he can do there, Pierce is a tough first fight for him there. Pierce might be the best welterweight no one gives much credit to. The guy is good everywhere even if he doesn't necessarily show it. Maybe Palhares can catch him. Anything is possible in this game, but I've really got my doubts.
I'm a big believer in the improvement Team Alpha Male has made. It's basically impossible to ignore or discount anymore. Dillashaw, along with the rest of the crew, have really cleaned up their striking, which has opened up all of their offense as a consequence. But something tells me Assuncao is a different animal. He's got a way of shutting down offenses while patiently waiting for his spot. He'll get a lot of those opportunities against a guy who pushes as often as Dillashaw does. Over time, that means Assuncao has a good opportunity to make things happen for himself. I'm taking the upset here.
From the preliminary card: