Of all the fights on the “UFC on Fox” card, none left a bitterer taste in my mouth than the evening’s curtain jerker: Demian Maia vs. Chris Weidman.
Ok, so that bitter taste might have something to do with the fact that I bet $5 on Maia to win in what I felt was a “smart” underdog pick. After all, Maia is a phenom in BJJ, one of my all-time favorite grapplers. He also has more experience than Weidman, to say nothing of Chris taking the fight on two weeks notice. The deck seemed stacked in Maia’s favor.
But honestly, what I really wanted was a Jiu-Jitsu war, a grappling chess match for the ages to match Sakuraba vs. Newton, or even Maia vs. MacDonald (an unheralded classic, peep it if you haven’t). I wanted the kind of dynamic, exciting grappling exchange that would show the network TV universe that “rolling” can be just as fun to watch as “standabang”.
Instead, we got a three-round amateur kickboxing contest in which Weidman came out the winner, Maia came out looking awful, and fans came out asleep.
Hey, don’t take my word for it. From what we’ve been hearing on Twitter for the last 24 hours, this fight sucked the energy out of the United Center like a giant, mirth-collecting Hoover vacuum.
Remember when seeing the words “Demian Maia” on a card meant a surefire highlight-reel submission was in the offing? Remember how he absolutely tore through guys like Ed Herman, Nate Quarry, and Ryan Jensen? Remember that time he once did this to Chael freakin’ Sonnen?
What happened, Demian? You haven’t won by submission in three years now, but more than that you look like you’re not even trying that hard anymore. Against guys you should tie in knots – guys like Mario Miranda, Kendall Grove, Jorge Santiago – you’re tentative.
Now don’t get me wrong, Maia’s stand-up game has grown by leaps and bounds. That’s very much to his credit, except that it seems to have come at the expense of his ground game.
I just don’t see the cost/benefit in trading a world class BJJ game for an alright stand-up one. Put another way, I don’t think a championship is in your future if you can’t outbox a short-notice Chris Weidman.
In fact, the only attempts to bring the fight down were Weidman’s (as far as I recall, I’ve only seen the fight once). This speaks well to how confident he is on the ground, even when he’s gassed. I can’t wait to see what he can do against top comp with a full tank of gas and a full training camp under his belt.
And Maia? I think Maia needs to get back to his roots, pronto. In a funny way, I think the crushing Marquardt KO and the Anderson Silva humiliation changed Demian’s mindset. It showed him that world class BJJ isn’t enough. It forced him to grow and expand his game.
But he needs to remember what brought him to the dance. His wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, everything – it should all be in service of his BJJ game. Otherwise, I fear he’s wasting fans, Dana White’s and his own time.