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Demian Maia picks Stephen Thompson to beat Tyron Woodley at UFC 205

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

NEW YORK -- Winner of six straight in the UFC welterweight division, Demian Maia will be inside the Madison Square Garden on Saturday night to watch 170-pound champion Tyron Woodley defend his belt against Stephen Thompson at UFC 205. He thinks it’s pretty clear that he’s next in line against whoever wins on Nov. 12.

Coming off a huge first-round submission win over former champion Carlos Condit, Maia is one of the guest fighters at UFC 205, and believes that being invited by the promotion to attend the historic event is a signal that he’s more than likely to face Woodley or "Wonderboy" in 2017.

"I was happy to be one of the guest fighters in this event because I know what that means, what they think, and I think I will be next," Maia said during a media lunch Thursday in New York. "Anything can happen, nothing is for sure. It’s implicit, not explicit."

Maia’s manager Eduardo Alonso revealed during the media lunch that former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta said, when Maia decided to cut from 185 to 170 pounds, that the jiu-jitsu wizard would be guaranteed a shot at the title with two big wins. And even though the Brazilian had a great start as a welterweight between 2012 and 2013, his shot at the gold might finally come when Fertitta isn’t around anymore.

The jiu-jitsu expert will be watching Woodley-Thompson closely in New York, but is unsure of who would be a better match-up for him in a five-round title bout.

"I don’t know how to answer that. One day I think it’s one, and then I think it’s the other," Maia said. "If I’m analyzing it as a journalist, I’d say ‘Wonderboy’. People say it’s because he’s taller, I don’t know why. Woodley is short, and he gets more tired than ‘Wonderboy’. If I start grappling, (Woodley) won’t handle the pressure, he will lose power in his hand. But I don’t know."

He says "Wonderboy" Thompson might be the better match-up for him style-wise, and that’s exactly who he’s leaning towards to in his pick ahead of UFC 205.

"It’s really hard to say," he said. "Honestly, I don’t know, but based on the fighting styles, maybe ‘Wonderboy’ has a little advantage. My reference from Woodley is the Rory (MacDonald) fight, how Rory controlled it. Woodley has that dangerous heavy hand early in the fight, and if he’s smart, he will go for takedowns and try to get ‘Wonderboy’ tired. But I think he will try to catch him with his hand."