Another major bout on the main card, besides the monumental title fights that top the card of course, Demian Maia versus Jorge Masvidal is an absolute monster of a fight. It’s crazy to think that Demian Maia isn’t fighting for the title next, but with the Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson draw and subsequent rematch, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard probably thought it was best that he kept his blade sharpened. Too bad he has to contend with Jorge Masvidal who is a live dog in this fight. So how exactly do these two match up?
Demian Maia is a man who has gone through a number of interesting transitions as a mixed martial artist. When he first came onto the scene, Maia was clearly just a jiu-jitsu player whose sole mode of combat was taking his opponents done and strangling them. Then we saw the version of Maia who fell in love with striking a bit too much and became a somewhat ineffective fighter. Now what we’ve seen is a man returning to his roots and understanding the means in which to implement that game while staying competent on the feet. But as far as his wrestling is concerned, he attacks the front leg well with single leg takedowns, but he’d do well to vary his attack.
In this bout, Maia is likely to implement a similar game plan to all of his most recent fight. Maia will look to push forward and be the bull against the former lightweight and likely this is the best approach. What he’ll want to do however is mix in his striking. Since he wants the fight on the ground, attacking with kicks should be apart of the game plan, albeit not heavily. If he can use a lead low round kick to the legs, it will go a long way to soften up Masvidal up. Maia should be watching for counters and should even invite them. Pressuring Masvidal will force him to counter back, especially considering that he’s a counter striker. Once Masvidal looks to counter back, the takedown should follow for Maia immediately afterward. Even a failed attempt will do great deal to put doubt in Masvidal’s head and that’s exactly what Demian Maia needs in this fight. Once Masvidal is down, bypassing the hips is priority number one. From there, Maia’s options are infinite.
Jorge Masvidal on the other hand is a man who is a born and bred striker who has rounded out his game over the years. While ‘Gamebred’ may have started out as a striker, he has combined a slick wrestling game and strong submission defense to his arsenal. Now what we see from Masvidal is not only a man willing to throw hands, but a fighter who can reverse takedowns and go for his own. But make no mistake, head and shoulder control as well as his boxing and movement are the keys to victory in this fight.
What Masvidal is going to want to do primarily in this fight is keep his feet moving. What Demian Maia usually does well is pressure his opponents and keep them guessing just when he’ll shoot in for the takedown. Masvidal being on his bicycle is paramount in this fight, but he can’t afford to be too passive either. A stiff jab coupled with movement will win the day for him. When Maia overextends and looks for a takedown off of the jab, Masvidal should move his feet, whether that means a hard pivot or shifting backwards, then look to land a cross. Front kicks should be a primary weapon as far as leg techniques go, but going to the well too many time could lead to an easy takedown. Jorge Masvidal is truly a great boxer with a strong gauge of distance, but he can’t afford to start slow in this fight. In the event that he ties up with Maia, Masvidal needs to be savvy with the jiu-jitsu masters movement in the clinch and willingness to give up position to go for a sweep and look for top control. Landing that right cross will be absolutely necessary for Masvidal as well as moving directly after a shot is landed. Most of all, Masvidal must make Maia pay for every failed takedown attempt to deter Maia from reshooting.
It’s a throwback fight if I’ve ever seen one and a damned good one at that. Who wins the chance to face the beast Tyron Woodley?
Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his Twitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.
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