Don’t let the title mislead you; Demian Maia is as worthy as anyone for a title shot. The problem is that there is a fighter who is just as deserving — if not more so — who Maia needs to fight before he can be given a crack at the champion: Nate Marquardt.
While Maia versus
the Silva/Leites winner Anderson Silva likely won’t be announced until after UFC 97, the reasoning for the booking is based on one thing: time. The UFC is looking to give the winner of the Hendo/Bisping fight a title shot towards the end of the year and it would be nice to squeeze in another title fight between now and then. Looking at the current UFC schedule, the earliest a Marquardt vs. Maia fight could take place would be August. That is precisely when the UFC wants to stage the next championship fight so the timing simply doesn’t work out.
To that I offer the solution of “fuck it.” Maquardt vs. Maia is the fight that needs to take place to determine a number one contender. It’s that simple. The UFC has tossed out what makes sense schedule wise for the sake of awesomeness before — look no further than B.J. Penn vs. Georges St. Pierre. While Marquardt vs. Maia may not be the Super Bowl fight that Penn vs. GSP was, it is still a fight that should happen that the fans want to see.
Rarely in the fight world do we get two men in the same division who have both dominated the competition so badly that they are each deserving of a championship fight. When that situation does occur, the standard operating procedure is that a number one contender’s bout take place. What we see more often is situations where one fighter has been promised a title shot and takes another fight in the interim (see Jackson vs. Jardine).
In this case, Demian Maia has entered the UFC and submitted five opponents in a row. He is a throwback to the days of Royce Gracie. In a time when we are seeing true “mixed” martial artists, Maia is an old school fighter who is able to succeed at the high levels of MMA relying mainly on jiu-jitsu wizardry. Despite that, none of the five opponents he has beaten were seriously in the title hunt. Don’t try and tell me that Chael Sonnen is a contender. I might be old fashioned, but I think a fighter should have to beat a half way legitimate contender before fighting for the belt. Nate Quarry is likely the best fighter Maia has beaten and the TUF1 alum has never beaten anyone who was touching the top 20. Therefore, Maia is in need of a victory over a truly dangerous opponent who can give him serious credibility going into a title shot.
While the Brazilian has been submitting fighters left and right, Nate Marquardt has transformed himself into a different fighter than the one who lost to Anderson Silva back in 2007. Since that time, Nate ‘The Great’ has walked through Jeremy Horn, Thales Leites, Martin Kampmann, and Wilson Gouveia (and yes, he beat Leites — no question about it). With the exception of Horn, all of those fighters were considered truly dangerous at the time of fighting Marquardt — more so than anyone Maia has beaten in his UFC career. Couple that fact with his highlight reel TKO of Gouveia and you have a man who is both entertaining and a serious threat to the championship belt. If anybody in the world at 185 can beat Anderson Silva right now, it’s the new and improved Nate Marquardt.
There’s a strong argument out there against Silva fighting the same people he has already beaten, especially considering his supposed retirement after he finishes this contract. While this argument has merit, there exists an even stronger rebuttal: everyone loves a good comeback story. Marquardt losing decisively to Silva only to come back, go on an absolute tear, and earn his way back is the type of story that fight fans salivate over.
In short, a Marquardt vs. Maia fight needs to take place to determine the true number one contender. If Maia can get past Marquardt, then he’s truly deserving of a shot at the belt. Personally, I say Marquardt takes him out. Maia has looked nothing short of impressive in his UFC career, but the Nate Marquardt we have seen as of late has looked downright scary.