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Demian Maia Hopes to Make Memorable Impression With UFC 102 Effort

Demian MaiaUndefeated UFC middleweight Demian Maia has made it clear his game plan going into Saturday's UFC 102 fight against Nate Marquardt is to take his opponent down and submit him. And although Marquardt is comfortable on the ground, it's on his feet where he holds a significant advantage.

Still, if you ask Maia, he does not consider this fight a classic striker vs. grappler matchup.

"No, no. I don't think at all that," Maia told FanHouse on Tuesday. "Nate is good on the ground. He can take the fight to the ground. He can fight on the ground. And also I've been training stand-up seriously since before the UFC. Before my fights I never needed to stand but if I need, I will do."

Maia (10-0), a highly-decorated grappling champion who has finished all five of his UFC fights via submission, has been hard at work at Wanderlei Silva's Wand Fight Team training center to build a more well-rounded skill set and diminish his reputation as a one-dimensional fighter. By fight night, Maia will have spent around a month at the knockout artist's Las Vegas gym, but unlike previous camps, Silva's service this time around came as a coach rather than an actual training partner.

"[Silva] has not been training much because he had some surgery, but he's with me almost every day," Maia said. "He helps me with the training and he's helping to show stuff also and coach."

Marquardt (28-8-2), a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Ricardo Murgel, will not only be the most complete fighter Maia has faced, but also the most accomplished grappler he's been matched up with in a mixed martial arts bout. Marquardt has shown himself to be fully capable against grapplers such as Dean Lister and Thales Leites, and in over 10 years of fighting has only been submitted twice. However, Maia is a special breed whose main expertise is locating and capitalizing on a fighter's weakness on the ground.

"Everybody has holes in his grappling game," Maia said. "He's hard to submit but that's what I do, that's what I [specialize in]. I think if I can get in a good spot I can do that."

Interestingly enough, both fighters are currently listed as expected participants for the 2009 ADCC submission wrestling world championships and Maia says it's entirely possibly, although unlikely, that the two could meet again in September.

"Yes it's possible," Maia said. "I'm the champion and I [was] invited to be there. I'm just waiting after this fight to see what's going to happen and talk to the UFC guys and decide if I go or not."

Maia and Marquardt's ultimate goal is to wear the UFC middleweight crown currently donned by Anderson Silva. Marquardt has already challenged and lost via TKO to Silva in July 2007, and wants another shot. Maia was reportedly supposed to be in line after Silva-Leites at UFC 97 in April but the urgency to grant Maia a title shot may have been slowed due to the lackluster fight. Maia believes he shouldn't be lumped in with Leites.

"Totally different," Maia said. "It's like saying that two guys that like to fight stand-up will do the same fight. I like to fight on the ground but I don't understand why people keep saying that. Like if you say, Wanderlei Silva and Anderson Silva, they have a totally different style than Rich Franklin and I don't know why people think if you fight Jiu-Jitsu you're going to have the same fight as another guy."

"My style is a little more aggressive, and Thales likes to mix it up with striking game," Maia pointed out.

Another obstacle that could delay Maia and Marquardt's title hopes is Silva's willingness to challenge himself in other weight classes. reported last week that the word out of Silva's camp is that he wants to move up to fight at heavyweight due to his lack of interest in fights at middleweight.

"I think it's his choice but it doesn't matter what he thinks," Maia said of Silva, whom Maia referred to as a "genius" for the champ's recent dismantling of Forrest Griffin at UFC 101.

"He's the champ and he wants to keep his belt, and if he doesn't want to give up his belt then he should fight for his belt. So it doesn't matter. It's just what he feels," Maia added.

The immediate next contender for Silva is Dan Henderson, a former PRIDE champion coming off a knockout win over Michael Bisping at UFC 100. Maia is hoping a strong performance at UFC 102 can sway UFC president Dana White's decision.

"I think depending on how this fight goes, I can change his mind."

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