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FightLine.com
UFC Fight Roundup: Demian Maia, Yan Cabral get new opponents
MMA Fighting
Cabral (11-0) made his much anticipated UFC debut in October, defeating David Mitchell via unanimous decision at UFN 29. Prior to the win, the Nova Uniao fighter earned 10 straight submission victories, including a second-round win over MMA legend …
Replacement Alexander Yakovlev meets Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 42MMAjunkie.com
Alexander Yakovlev steps in to fight Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 5/31Bloody Elbow
Demian Maia now meets UFC newcomer Alexander Yakovlev at "The Ultimate MMATorch

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UFC 170 was a fairly bland card in terms of star power Saturday night from Las Vegas. It wasn’t helped by the last-minute replacement of Rashad Evans by Patrick Cummins and the attempts to create a narrative around that mismatch. Despite the one-minute finishes in both the main and co-main events which failed to get going, one fight really saved the card for me.

The true fight of the night, and one which was a treat on all levels, was Demian Maia vs. Rory MacDonald.

 

Fork in the Road

Both Maia and MacDonald have been on the end of some pretty severe criticism in recent performances.

Maia was once the most feared grappler in MMA, but then he tried to round out his game and began to get involved in mediocre stand-up affairs. MacDonald, for his part, was considered the new breed: an all around killer, but his snoozefest against Jake Ellenberger turned that around over night. 

MacDonald suffered exactly the same problem as his stablemate, Georges St. Pierre. His jab worked so well that once it was removed, by meeting a southpaw, he had no other weapons. Robbie Lawler beat him up and knocked him down in their match in November, and MacDonald was out of title contention and back to the drawing board.

At UFC 170, despite their fight providing a clear-cut winner, we got to see both men returning to what made them so great.

 

The Leg Weave/Dope Mount

Maia showed immediately that he is still the premier grappler in mixed martial arts as he quickly took down MacDonald with a single leg. MacDonald showed that tendency we have been seeing from wrestlers in recent months to use butterfly guard, because of the opportunities it can allow to scramble back up to the feet.

What Maia did so masterfully on the ground was to constantly look to remove one of MacDonald’s hooks, taking away a good deal of control from MacDonald.

Once he had achieved this, Maia would look to use a hip switch to drive his knee across the middle of MacDonald’s guard and achieve a leg weave position. This position is variously called a smash pass, a leg weave, dope mount or even Penn mount, after B.J. Penn who utilized it a great deal against Jens Pulver, Takanori Gomi and others.

Notice how as soon as MacDonald attempts to elevate Maia’s hips (and he can only do it on one side now, making it a predictable action), Maia switches his hips and drives that knee to the mat. This crosses MacDonald’s legs and flattens them. From here, Maia lands a nice knee and moves into mount.

Here’s Penn achieving the same position against Pulver in their first meeting. 

You can also see Penn hitting variations of the pass in several clips in this excellent piece of guard-passing collection. Being Penn, he would often chill out in the dope mount and soften his opponent with punches to the face.

Shinya Aoki also uses this pass masterfully in MMA.

It was beautiful to watch Maia show the kind of high-level jiu-jitsu we have all wanted to see from him since he began his attempts to become a more rounded fighter and forgot his BJJ roots.

MacDonald showed the incredible value of the butterfly guard in the third round, however, as he used it to create space and get back to his feet.

 

More Than Just the Jab

MacDonald impressed enormously by showing that he has a full arsenal of strikes, not just the same flicking jab which he stuck to against Ellenberger. MacDonald’s jab, however, still found far more of a home than it should have against a southpaw.

Notice how low Maia carries his lead hand. It might not look particularly low, and if he were against a fighter in the same stance as him, it wouldn’t matter much, but that lead hand is the check to the jab in a southpaw vs. orthodox (open guard) engagement.

In an “open guard” battle it is supposed to be hard to land jabs. You are supposed to get “crossed swords” and check each other’s attempts at the jab. Maia’s low lead hand, which he carries that way in hopes of landing his money right hook when his opponent steps in, means that MacDonald was able to thread the needle with his jab all night.

It is fairly easy to parry a straight punch across the body or downward. It is much, much harder to parry a punch outward. Think the difference between your bench press and your back hand. It’s not impossible, some Thai’s set up knees by parrying jabs outward by reaching over the top of the punch, but few fighters can parry a punch with their parrying hand beginning inside their shoulder and finishing outside of it.

It’s just not how your body works. 

If you can get a jab going effectively, even just flicking at the opponent’s lead-side eye, from open guard, it can start to cause overreactions in the opponent’s guard, which makes the rear hand straight easier to land. The Japanese boxer, Hozumi Hasegawa, was phenomenal at using a seemingly inconsequential southpaw jab to create a path for his left straight directly to the chin.

Even if Maia had seen the punches coming and tried to get his arm in the way or redirect MacDonald’s blow, he’d have had a hard old time doing it. If his hand had been up, level with his shoulder, checking MacDonald’s lead and denying it the straight path, the fight could have turned out differently.

Lawler more than demonstrated how difficult it can be to jab against a southpaw with a good defensive lead hand.

It was an absolute pleasure, however, to witness the return of MacDonald’s body kicks. MacDonald has all manner of kicks along all different trajectories. He doesn’t just show the same roundhouse kick with the top of the foot or shin again and again, as Maia often does. No, MacDonald with land with the shin, the top of the foot or the ball of the foot, and he will change target and angle.

And goodness did it work. By Round 2, Maia looked exhausted from some of the biting body kicks which MacDonald had thrown. Each time Maia’s head came forward, up came a front snap kick at his chin, or a roundhouse kick at his head. Every time these kicks forced Maia back upright it was back to the stiff one-two, or the kicks to the body.

You will always hear me saying how undervalued body strikes are in general in MMAparticularly long kicks to the body, and especially snap kicks with the ball of the foot. Watching MacDonald when he is on his game is akin to seeing what Katsunori Kikuno (click here to read my high opinions of that guy’s style) could do with a fully rounded skill set and some top-flight experience inside the UFC under his karate black belt.

Even though Maia was severely outmatched on the feet, he did show a neat counter kick which we rarely see in MMA. That is to kick the standing leg underneath an opponent’s kick. The best consistent example of this counter throughout a fight is, of course, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Whether you cared about the main and co-main event or not, Maia vs. MacDonald is worth catching up on because it provided a technical chess match and a blood-and-guts battle.

Pick up Jack’s eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking from his blog, Fights Gone ByJack can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Outside of the quick finishes put forth by champion Ronda Rousey and top contender Daniel Cormier, UFC 170 offered some good, old-fashioned veteran action.

Two of those recognizable names were welterweights Mike Pyle and Demian Maia.

Both coming off their own heart-breaking and frustrating defeats, each UFC mainstay was aiming to impress and start off 2014 on a good note.

Unfortunately, only Pyle escaped Saturday’s Las Vegas main card with a victory, ending TJ Waldburger late in the third round. Maia lost to Rory MacDonald via unanimous decision.

Now, while neither welterweight is close to challenging for a title—even though Maia was recently considered a fathomable option to do so—it’s still important to understand their careers may be heading in opposite directions.

On one hand you have Pyle, a true veteran of the sport who often excels late into fights by tapping into an endless holster of experience and raw gusto.

Since the beginning of 2012, “Quicksand” has sunk every one of his opponents besides the red-hot Matt Brown back in August. His resurgence over the past two years has included three TKOs and one knockout, which stands as one of his most impressive stretches of finishes in his lengthy career.

Waldburger isn’t a top threat in the division, but a win over him not only proved Pyle can rebound from a crushing defeat so late into his career, but it proved he could out-craft a younger and more athletic opponent.

His victory was truly a step in the right direction as he works his way to the welterweight’s Top 10.

On the other hand we have Demain Maia, a Brazilian submission specialist well known for his ability to grind an opponent down to sheer bone.

But what became evident at UFC 170 when Maia was defeated by MacDonald—even despite his recent success as a newly positioned threat in the welterweight division—is that the 36-year-old is on the last legs of his career.

Coming into his fight with MacDonald, a superior athlete who pushes the pace from the first round to the last, Maia had to know his conditioning would be called into question. He had to know he would need to be in the best shape of his life.

Unfortunately for Maia, in a loss that showcased his inability to maintain fluency and consistency following an early fight energy dump, he was more than likely in the best shape of his career and still looked like a suffocating catfish.

So what does this mean? It’s pretty simple. Another defining defeat at the hands of a more athletic competitor and the Brazilian will start to be scratched off many lists around the sport.

 

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UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey not only walked away from UFC 170 with a victory in the main event, but “Rowdy” also pocketed a “Performance of the Night” bonus for her efforts.

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UFC 170 live blog: Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia
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Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia will try to remain title shot chase at UFC 170. – Esther Lin, MMA Fighting. ×. Get the latest UFC, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) News, Results news with MMA Fighting. Follow MMA Fighting on Twitter. Like MMA Fighting 
MacDonald scores comeback decision win over MaiaNinemsn
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UFC 170 a proving ground for MacDonaldESPN (blog)
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Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia were moving up the welterweight rankings in 2013, but then both suffered setbacks.

The matchup at UFC 170 would help put one back on the winning track toward gaining a title shot later this year.

Maia turned in a beautiful first round. He took MacDonald down and controlled the action. MacDonald defended well, survived and came back strong in the second.

Maia looked gassed in Round 2. MacDonald capitalized on this and punished his opponent with a variety of strikes. Maia remained in the fight, but he looked dead in the water as the fight drew longer. MacDonald piled it on in the third en route to a unanimous decision. The performance showed the importance of cardio.

 

What We’ll Remember About MacDonald vs. Maia

We will remember MacDonald’s resilience the most from this fight.

Being underneath Maia is a terrifying position to be in, but MacDonald weathered the storm. As he took Maia deeper into the fight, the easier the takedown was to defend, and the easier the target Maia became.

MacDonald could have packed it up in that first round, but he did not. He showed his superior conditioning and striking. A quality performance from the Tristar product.

 

What We Learned About MacDonald

MacDonald has no quit in him and showed what kind of shape he is in.

When he was taken down in the third, he was able to get back to his feet rather quickly and finish out the round strong.

MacDonald kept a good pace throughout the fight and did not tail off much in his output. That is a big plus for him in this division. MacDonald’s cardio cost him years ago against Carlos Condit, and he has certainly put that behind him. He looked outstanding.

 

What We Learned About Maia

We learned that Maia is a front-runner. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it makes him a sitting duck past the first frame.

He shoots from way outside, putting everything into his strikes, and it causes him to tire out quickly. The upper-echelon fighters of this division are not going to tire after five minutes. It hurts Maia’s chances of ever becoming a serious threat in the division.

He’s a gatekeeper.

 

What’s Next for MacDonald

UFC 171 will be very telling for MacDonald’s future. If Tyron Woodley knocks off Condit, then that would be an ideal opponent for a title-eliminator bout.

If Condit wins, it seems like he will get the next title shot, taking that fight off the table for MacDonald.

Another good fight on the card is between Jake Shields and Hector Lombard. Should Condit come out on top at UFC 171, then MacDonald should be opposite the winner of that fight.

 

What’s Next for Maia

As a newly minted gatekeeper at 170 pounds, Maia should take on one of the UFC’s up-and-coming prospects who is close to the top 15 spots.

Maia would be a very stiff test for any of those young bucks, but they need to be tossed into the fire to see if they have what it takes.

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Potential setbacks lurk around every corner in the fight game. Whether the bumps in the road come from injuries sustained in training, or an off night inside the cage, fighters learn to balance the ebb and flow throughout the progression of their careers.

While no fighter is immune to these circumstances, there are those who establish such a profound trajectory where a great deal of expectation becomes attached to them. With talent being an absolute must for long-term success to be obtained, there is often some additional element involved that causes fans and the media to project a bright future for a fighter.

For Rory MacDonald it was his age. The Tri-Star fighter burst onto the UFC stage at 21-years-old and made an immediate impact by fighting at a level beyond his years. The young Canadian found victory in six of his first seven showings, with the only setback coming at the hands of former WEC champion Carlos Condit—in a fight MacDonald was dominating up until the very end.

Following his loss to Condit, “Ares” rolled off five consecutive wins over increasingly competitive competition. The British Columbia native rag-dolled Nate Diaz, blistered Mike Pyle, pounded the senses out of Che Mills and battered former two-divisional champion BJ Penn. Those performances helped MacDonald trade in his prospect label for that of a certified contender, and he took a position in the upper tier of the welterweight division.

Where reaching rare air was certainly an accomplishment, things took a bit of a turn in his next two outings. He outlasted Jake Ellenberger in a fight where both men gave lackluster performances at UFC on Fox 8, then came out on the losing end of a split decison against Robbie Lawler at UFC 167 last November.

When the final bell sounded, the former Elite XC champion had his hand raised, and MacDonald was faced with only his second loss in his eight years as a professional. In the aftermath of the fight, the criticism on MacDonald’s performance came flooding in, and he stepped up to meet it head on. The 24-year-old publicly stated his motivation had been off in recent fights, but the loss to Lawler had re-ignited the competitive fire inside of him. 

“I’m still constantly improving, but I really didn’t show improvements in my last fight like I usually do,” MacDonald told Bleacher Report. “When I fight, people expect to see an even better version of what they’ve seen before, and I think I disappointed in my last one. People are going to be pleasantly surprised in this next fight.”

The Firas Zahabi-trained fighter responded to the situation by asking the UFC to get him back to work in the quickest possible fashion and to make sure there was another top welterweight standing across from him inside the cage. The promotion responded by tapping former middleweight title challenger turned welterweight contender Demian Maia, and the two men will square off at UFC 170 this Saturday night.

“This is what I wanted,” MacDonald said. “I didn’t want to sit on the sidelines for too long and be pouting about the last fight. Being able to jump right back into training camp helped me get my mind off of things and helped pick up my spirits. Now, it has me looking in the direction of the title.

“With Georges stepping away, [Johny] Hendricks fighting Robbie [Lawler] and the other fights on that card in March, it has really opened the doorway for everyone in the top 10 of the division to really make their mark. I’m really looking and motivated to have that belt around my waist this year.”

Much like MacDonald, the Brazilian grappling ace also had his momentum stunted when he came out on the losing end of a split decision against Jake Shields at Fight Night 29. The loss was his first at 170 pounds and brought a three-fight winning streak to a halt. Following the setback, Maia made a similar request to the UFC and asked for a fight that would give him the potential to jump right back into the title hunt.

There will undoubtedly be a lot on the line when the cage door closes in Las Vegas on Saturday night, and MacDonald believes it’s the perfect fight and perfect set of circumstances to bring out his best.

“I’m very excited for this fight,” MacDonald said. “I think he’s a great opponent and I have a lot of respect for his style of fighting. I think it will be an entertaining fight. He poses a lot of threats—as do I—and I think it’s an exciting mix. 

“I haven’t really been delving into it or thinking about it too much from a stylistic standpoint. I’ve really been working on my own skills and making sure I’m going to pull the trigger when I’m in there on fight night. I’m not going to go in there and over-think things. I’m going to go into the fight and let the training shine through. 

“I’m confident in my skills if this fight goes to the ground,” he added in regard to hitting the mat with such a decorated jiu-jitsu practitioner. “I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu as well. I’m not saying everything equals out in that area, but this is a fight. I’m confident in all areas, even on the ground with such a skilled ground fighter.”

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.  

 

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Rory MacDonald, who started training MMA at age 14, prepares to rebound from his loss to Robbie Lawler. With a renewed passion, the young welterweight takes on veteran and submission expert Demian Maia, who also wants a shot at the now-vacant title.

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Demian Maia expects 'great rewards' with win over Rory MacDonald
MMA Fighting
"He's an excellent athlete. He has many things to prove and I'm happy to fight him. I know that a win over him brings great rewards. I'm fighting for a long time, not only in MMA but also jiu-jitsu, so I expect that my experience will make the
Free $1000 UFC 170 Kountermove fantasy cash tourneyBloody Elbow
UFC 170: Rory MacDonald Has Pressure Taken Off With GSP's Decision To LeaveFightLine.com
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Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia both saw impressive winning streaks come to an end in their most recent outings. At UFC 170, a return to the title-shot conversation will be up for grabs when the welterweights meet on the main card.

Competing on the same fight card as Tristar Gym teammate Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald had a chance to earn a spot in a championship bout at UFC 167. However, Robbie Lawler was able to gain an edge over the Canadian on the scorecards and now finds himself scheduled to meet Johny Hendricks in a battle for the vacant 170-pound strap at UFC 171.

Picking up three straight wins after moving to the welterweight division, Maia appeared to be on his way to another shot at UFC gold. However, the Brazilian suffered a setback against Jake Shields in October, as he also fell in a close decision.

As MacDonald and Maia look to get back into the win column, here is a look at how the two match up in all areas.

Begin Slideshow

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