UFC 118 Preview Part Two: Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda

The UFC makes its Massachusetts debut with UFC 118, headlined by World Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar facing former champion BJ Penn in an immediate rematch of their controversial April title fight and Hall of Famer Randy Couture taking on champion boxer James Toney in what is being billed as the “UFC vs. Boxing”. In the coming days, Inside Fights will be previewing all the fights on Saturday’s PPV, with Part Two looking at Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda.

Middleweight Match: Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda

To say that 2010 has been a strange year for Demian Maia (12-2, 2KOs, 8Subs)  would be like saying that Tiger Woods has hit a rough patch. After winning his first five UFC fights by submission, he was seemingly knocked out of world title contention by Nate Marquardt in just 21 seconds last September. Maia viewed his fight with Dan Miller at UFC 109 as a chance to regroup and rebuild. While Maia secured the points victory in a closely fought contest his decision to test himself on the feet exposed an improved but still rudimentary standing game, with his offense lacking power and defense lacking technique. It seemed that Maia needed more fights to develop the all-round game needed to defeat world champion, Anderson Silva.

In what appeared a stroke of luck but would turn out to be a cruel twist of fate Maia was denied that time when challenger Vitor Belfort failed to recover in time for his April title fight against Silva. With the next challenger Chael Sonnen not yet healed from cuts suffered in his Final Eliminator against Marquardt and other leading contenders Michael Bisping and Wanderlei Silva in the co-main of the UFC’s Australian debut, Demian Maia was practically the only credible challenger that the UFC could book against Silva at such short notice, The fight would become one of the most infamous in UFC history, with Silva dominating his fellow Brazilian despite seeming more interesting in showboating. Lost in the backlash against Silva antics was a proper evaluation of Maia’s inability to capitalize on the champion’s outlandish behavior, with the challenger seemingly unable to effectively defend against Silva’s Muay Thai or offer any offense except weak, desperation takedowns.

His comeback fight was meant to be against Alan Belcher on September 15th, but Belcher’s health problems forced the cancellation of that fight and Maia’s move to UFC 118. If the disruption to his training camp negatively affects him then his opponent Mario Miranda (12-1, 6KOs, 4Subs)  is well placed to capitalize. Like Maia, Miranda is a BJJ black belt but in his two UFC fights he has shown a well-rounded fighting style. His debut against rising star Gerald Harris ended in defeat when he was caught with several power punches at the very end of the first round, but before that he had shown himself to be very comfortable standing. Throughout the round he threw a variety of punches and kicks and came very close to finishing the fight with an excellent kickboxing combination that dropped Harris. Against David Loiseau he showcased his Greco-Roman game, controlling his opponent in the clinch for prolonged periods of the fight. He also demonstrated improved ‘ground and pound’ en route to securing a dominant TKO victory in the second round.

Miranda and Maia are on paper very similar fighters. Both Brazilians are BJJ black belts who lost their undefeated status in their eleventh fight via a sudden knockout. Maia is the superior grappler and has more high-level experience but in his two UFC fights Miranda has shown greater physicality and more explosive striking and takedowns. To me Miranda has a very clear path to victory, using his Greco-Roman wrestling to wear down Maia in the clinch while taking every opportunity to impose himself standing. This will be made by easier by Miranda having  a 4inch height and 2inch reach advantage over Maia.  As long as he can keep the fight standing and avoid being caught in a submission by the best pure grappler in the UFC, Miranda should be able to pull off the upset victory.

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