Middleweight fights Weidman on Fox-televised main card
The journey from submission artist to well-rounded fighter continues for Demian Maia.
The Brazilian grappling phenom has shown vast improvements in his striking and physical strength over the past five fights and will be looking to continue the progress when he faces Chris Weidman at UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis tonight in Chicago.
Maia originally was slated to face Michael Bisping, but after an injury t o Mark Munoz caused a shuffle in the lineup, Weidman was tapped as the replacement. The New Jersey native brings both momentum and powerful style into the cage, and Maia is happy to test his skills. Even with the last-minute changeup, Maia is happy he will still get to fight in Chicago.
“There were a few changes,” Maia said. “I was almost done with camp when the change happened. We switched up some strategy because of the way he fights. But there were no tremendous changes. I kept my mind focused on the fight. The most important thing is that I was able to stay on this card. I was very happy about that. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to fight on Fox.”
When Maia steps in against Weidman, he will be looking to continue the progression he has shown in his overall skill set. He started his run in the UFC with five consecutive submission finishes, but his recent stretch of fights have all ended in decisions which he attributes to developing other areas of his game.
“Since I started in the UFC, I’ve become much more professional with my training,” Maia said. “When I had my first fight in the UFC I was around 90 kilos. I wanted to add more muscle and improve my striking. Of course I also wanted to keep my jiu-jitsu improving. I hired a boxing coach and worked very hard on my kickboxing. I’m bigger, stronger and have more stamina than when I came into the UFC.
“There are only 24 hours in a day. Before I was training jiu-jitsu twice a day and then I realized I needed to get stronger in other areas. When you are focusing on improving your stand-up and building muscle, you lose some of the sharpness of your jiu-jitsu. It is something that happens. I need to get back to having exciting fights and I’m looking to finish.”
On paper the matchup between Maia and Weidman appears to be a wrestler vs. BJJ affair. Both men have improved striking but their strengths involve the fight hitting the canvas, where Weidman has said he wants to submit the Brazilian.
“He can say whatever he wants. When they close the cage we are going to see what happens. It is possible for him to submit me but it’s not going to be easy.”