“I want to make it a point in my career to kind of just stomp out all those ground guys and let them know that I am the best grappler in the division,” Usman said at the time. “A win here, and I want Demian Maia.”
That was certainly an interesting one at the time. Usman, after all, was only three fights into his UFC career – including the one at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale that crowned him the season winner over Hayder Hassan. Seasoned vet Maia, on the other hand, had just quickly beaten Carlos Condit to add a sixth win to his streak and further strength his case for a welterweight title shot.
So when Usman (12-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) went on to dominate Alves and explain why he believed he could not only beat Maia (25-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC), but finish him quickly, he knew what people would think.
“I know people are looking at me like, ‘Oh, well, you’re only a couple of fights deep in the UFC,’” Usman said in the post-fight press conference. “Conor McGregor was one or two fights deep in the UFC before he said he was going to win that title. Not everybody out here trains with me. Not everybody knows what I’m capable of.
“My coaches know what I’m capable of. My training partners know what I’m capable of. And I know what I’m capable of. And I’ve said it: (UFC President Dana White), put him up, and I’m going to get (Maia) out of there in the first round.”
It took him 18 months, a few more fights and a short-notice switch, but Usman did get the matchup. The two headline the FS1-televised UFC Fight Night 129 event, which takes place Saturday at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile. Usman was supposed to meet fellow on-the-rise welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio before a hand injury forced the Argentinian fighter out.
A lot has happened since Usman’s initial callout. Maia went on to beat Jorge Masvidal and get his long-awaited 170-pound title shot, but he lost to still-champion Tyron Woodley after five rounds. The Brazilian grappling ace followed that up with another loss, to Colby Covington, and looks for recovery against Usman.
Usman, in turn, put on dominant performances over Sergio Moraes, Sean Strickland and Emil Meek to stay perfect in his UFC run. He hasn’t had an official loss since 2013 and has become somewhat of a boogey-man in the 170-pound division. He’s now ranked No. 8 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings while Maia sits in the No. 7 spot.
We can’t say what the odds would have been back then, but they probably would have been less lopsided toward Usman – who’s now a 4-1 favorite heading into UFC Chile. Usman’s confidence, though, was as high as ever.
“This is fighting at the end of the day,” Usman said. “This is not a football game where a high school player is talking to an NFL player. This is a fight at the end of the day. He’s been at the top for a long time. But my style would trump his style. I study this sport. I know that I can get him out of there in the first round.”
To hear 2016 Usman’s explanation of why he can beat Maia, check out the video above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Kamaru Usman made a bold Demian Maia prediction in 2016; now it's put-up-or-shut-up time