MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of UFC Fight Night 129’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event.
UFC Fight Night 129 takes place Saturday at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, and it airs on FS1 following prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.
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Demian Maia (25-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC)
- Height: 6’1″ Age: 40 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 72″
- Last fight: Decision loss to Colby Covington (Oct. 28, 2017)
- Camp: Demian Maia Jiu-jitsu (Brazil)
- Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 2x Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion
+ 2007 ADCC winner
+ 3 KO victories
+ 12 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ 19-2 with at least 1 takedown secured
+ Improved striking
^ Underrrated left hand
+ Excellent wrestling ability
^ Solid hips, under-hooks, takedowns
+ Superb top game
^ 89 passes in 26 fights
+ Steady and smooth trantistiions
^ Always looks for the back
Kamaru Usman (12-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC)
- Height: 6’0″ Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 76″
- Last fight: Decision win over Emil Meek (Jan. 14, 2018)
- Camp: Hard Knocks 365 (Florida)
- Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
- Risk management: Good
+ “The Ultimate Fighter 21” alum
+ NCAA Division II national champ
+ 3x NCAA All-American
+ 6 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Improved overall striking
^ Puts together punches well
+ Strong inside the clinch
+ Excellent takedown ability
^ In the open or against the fence
+ Superb top game and control
^ Rides and transitions intelligently
Originally slated to face Santiago Ponzinibbio (who was forced to withdraw due to injury), Usman instead meets a former title challenger in Maia, a fighter whom he has had his eye on for some time now. And with Usman being one of the more avoided fighters under the UFC banner, it will be interesting to see what the rising Nigerian contender does with the opportunity at hand.
Surprisingly accepting the bout with just under four weeks’ notice, Maia will be putting more on the line than meets the eye. The 40-year-old Brazilian is currently riding a two-fight losing skid and is arguably the last of a dying breed in regards to specialists, making this matchup one that will have many watching with bated breath.
Starting off on the feet, we have a pairing of two pressure-heavy grapplers who wield an underrated striking game.
With Usman initially stepping onto the MMA stage with a primary skill set of wrestling, we have seen him make marked jumps in his striking ability under the care of Henri Hooft.
A Dutch style striking coach who emphasizes pressure, Hooft has been able to help Usman blossom on the feet, throwing shots much smoother in transition and off of the breaks. He also appears to be a natural when it comes to his footwork.
Whether he is feinting forward or shifting his stance in combination, Usman will persistently corral his opposition toward the cage, attacking them with impunity whenever they step near it. But whether he is coming forward or countering, the former collegiate wrestling standout will need to stay ready for the looming takedown threats headed his way.
When you consider that Maia is 19-2 in the UFC when he’s able to secure a minimum of just one takedown, it is hard not to see the path that the Brazilian prefers to take.
An accoladed grappler both in and out of the gi, Maia stepped onto the MMA scene as a fighter who was learning how to strike while still on the job. And after a failed bid for the UFC middleweight throne, Maia eventually embraced weight-cutting, dropping down to the welterweight division in 2012.
Storming the ranks at 170 pounds with first-round finishes over Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story, Maia fell in love with a wrestling style that melded his MMA and jiu-jitsu games into one solid sword of offense.
Deceptively strong inside the clinch, Maia demonstrates an excellent use of underhooks and a preternatural ability to keep his hips in close to his opposition. From this area of the fight, Maia’s background in judo and karate shine through in the way in which he utilizes slick trips and sweeps to finish takedowns.
But the question remains: Will Maia be able to get Usman down?
Although not many have tried to ground the NCAA Division II national champion, I have to imagine that Usman’s defense is as good as his offensive and overall awareness suggests.
Usman, the former All-American wrestler, is a fighter who is capable of grounding his opponents from multiple positions in a fight. Whether he is hitting takedowns in the open or chaining his attempts along the fence, Usman can pretty much do it all. And considering that the 31-year-old has made a concerted effort to stand in most of his battles as of late, I would not be surprised to see Usman maintain that trend here.
Still, he will need to be mindful of Maia’s tricks.
Fitting a fighter archetype that I like to classify as a “presenter,” Maia will present a positional situation as bait to gain ground in the bigger picture.
Against Matt Brown, Maia demonstrated his presenting abilities by selling a scene of vulnerability off of failed takedowns – when his ultimate objective was to establish contact by pulling to half guard. And though the Brazilian ate a shot or two for his troubles, he inevitably sucked Brown into his brand of quicksand, tricking him into grappling space.
That said, Maia has struggled to get his tactics going against accoladed wrestlers in recent years, making this matchup a tall task on paper.
Usman’s freakish athletic abilities aside, it is the Nigerian’s intelligence in transition that is so impressive. Demonstrating excellent positional awareness, Usman always seems to make high-percentage choices whether he is passing or punching. Using wrist-rides and controls to collapse posts and crush spirits, Usman will seamlessly hit his transitions while cooking his opposition underneath him. However, I doubt that grappling with Maia will be part of his game plan.
The oddsmakers and public don’t seem to be decided on this contest, listing Usman -400 and Maia +325 as of this writing.
Given Maia’s recent run against high-level wrestlers, it’s hard not to see why the betting lines stand where they are. I also have to imagine that both Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley laid out fairly clear tactical approaches that Usman can pick from – as I’m sure he’s been calling the Brazilian vet out for a reason.
As a martial artist and fan of the sport, it’s not hard to root for a guy like Maia. But against another tough stylistic matchup that he’s taking on short notice, I find it hard to back him here. I predict Usman to pull away in the middle rounds, putting on a pace and pressure that forces a stoppage by strikes before the final bell.
Official pick: Usman inside the distance
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: UFC Chile main-event breakdown: Should Kamaru Usman really be a 4-1 favorite over Demian Maia?