UFC looks to put on another highly anticipated match up this weekend when welterweight no.1 contender and BJJ expert Damian Maia looks to put his 6 fight win streak on the line against the surging veteran and Miami native Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal.
As we look closer at this pivotal welterweight match up we firstly examine the paths both contenders have paved in one of the most historically stacked divisions in the UFC.
Damian Maia is somewhat of an anomaly in modern MMA. The lack of damage he takes in fights and some would argue deliver in fights is simply astonishing. Other than the flash knockout loss to Nate Marquart, a non competitive affair against Anderson Silva and the decision loss to Rory McDonald its hard to remember a time when Maia has been seriously hurt inside the cage.
Very recently New York native Matt Sera has been quoted describing Damian Maia as Royce Gracie 2.0 and thats a comparison I can very much understand. Maia is not your average BJJ blackbelt. Maia is a 4th degree BJJ black belt under Fabio Gurgel, a multiple time world BJJ medalist and someone that holds wins over UFC middleweight Jacare Souza and UFC heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga in straight grappling competitions.
Maia’s approach to each fight is simple. Use a pawing right jab out of the southpaw stance to measure distance and gauge his opponents before committing with absolute certainty to single leg takedowns. It is however Maia’s wrestling improvements which differentiate him from other talented BJJ artists. Maia does not relent like many others on his first failed takedown attempt – look for him to shoot outside single legs and drive his opponents into the cage and it is here where he works dillegently to attack his opponents back like a boa constrictor. He reap his opponents outside leg and maximises his weight – when his opponent braces for the takedown he will tie up and look to engage a second hook or simply attack the outside single again dragging his foe to the mat.
When Maia does get his opponents back to the mat it is almost as simple as a matter of time. The threat and fear of Maia’s incredible grappling will often force his opponents to make silly mistakes which is something he will take every advantage of. Like a chess match for every mistake his opponents make he will advance further through their guard, whether its sliding knee on belly or gradually advancing to the back Maia inch by inch will twist his opponents up like a pretzel before they succumb to their inevitable fate. In more recent fights Maia looks to attack the neck and 3 of his last 5 wins have ended by rear naked choke. Now this is not to say Maia is without his flaws as he has a striking deficiency compared to almost everyone in the top 10 of his division. Its Maia’s knowledge of this that sets him apart from other BJJ fighters – he wastes no time initiating the clinch and for good reason. Though I would argue Maia has power in his hands as displayed against Rory McDonald on occasion its his lack of striking technique and options that leave him vulnerable.
Gamebred is a fighter who truly lives up to his moniker, growing up in Miami street fighting is where he learned his craft. Fighting in none other than Kimbo Slices backyard brawls Masvidal funded his MMA training. Although Striking would be considered his bread & butter Masvidal is most definitely a student of the wrestling game. Training diligently with his team mate and fantastic collegiate wrestler Colby Covington has sharpened his TDD to no end. Furthermore Gamebred has been training his wrestling with none other than middleweight contender and olympic medalist Yoel Romero.
Masvidal’s crisp and clean striking is complimented wonderfully by his TDD where he looks to sprawl & brawl with most of his opponents unless he sees an obvious advantage with his grappling. Look for Masvidal to employ a lightning fast jab from the very first bell and its his consistent jab where he matures his striking output. Most recently against Donald Cerrone, who is a phenomenal striker in his own right, Masvidal complimented a stinging jab with a penetrating front kick of his own against the Muay Thai specialist which kept Cerrone honest for most of the bout.
Masvidal keeps himself in a tall erect stance with a high guard that mitigates a lot of the head strikes thrown at him. This stance has however proven susceptible to body strikes as displayed in both the Lorenz Larkin and Benson Henderson fight. A tall almost Muay Thai like stance extenuates Masvidal’s already prominent range and allows him to fire quick strikes both in one-two combinations and with strong roundhouse body kicks. The downside to this stance would usually be the vulnerability to the takedown as your weight is positioned so over your back heels that regaining control of the under-hooks when an opponent shoots can be a difficult task. This is something however Masvidal executes extremely well as shown in his nearly 80% takedown defence.
Look for Masvidal to employ a fleet footed and educated approach to striking in this fight- consistently turning away from the cage and pumping his jab in Maia’s face. Even though I expect Maia to complete at least one takedown against Masvidal it will be Gamebred’s hips and unwillingness to stagnate that will drain on the gas tank of Maia. Still Masvidal must be careful not to be overconfident in his takedown defence and commit to anything to wild in the first half of this 3 round affair. Masvidal however can certainly grapple as displayed when he choked Michael Chiesa with his signature D’arce choke, but he would be wise to disengage from every single advance Maia makes in the grappling realm.
Fight predictions, picks and odds
The odds were heavily in Maia’s favour when this fight was announced and rightly so given his recent welterweight streak. Now the odds are surprisingly close to a pick em and many people see big value in Maia. After researching this fight, and seeing a recent shocking outcome when Whittaker knocked out Jacare in the second round of their fight, a Masvidal win seems more plausible. Now each fight is unique and Masvidal certainly has his work cut out for him but I believe his fight IQ and boxing will be the difference in this encounter.
Prediction: Masvidal peppers Maia with strikes en route to a unanimous decision
Jorge Masvidal straight win -125 / @ 1.80 BET NOW
Damian Maia straight win +115 / @ 2.13 BET NOW
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