Without Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the Ultimate Fighting Championship would not exist. When Royce Gracie entered the UFC’s inaugural tournament in 1993, the unassuming Brazilian showed the world just how dangerous the gentle art could be. In the beginnings of MMA, jiu-jitsu was king. But as the years went by, the epoch of the striker was slowly ushered in. And with the new acceptance of striking, grappling became less appreciated.
The decrease in the appreciation of grappling from casual fans was exasperated by the rise of stars that excelled in striking. Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva and Conor McGregor have all brought fans to the sport with their beautiful and devastating form of fistic art. But after becoming used to highlight-reel knockouts, casual fans began to overlook the intricacies of grappling.
Jiu-jitsu is, in my opinion, the most beautiful martial art of all. And Demian Maia is the best in the world at applying his form of jiu-jitsu to MMA. Over the course of his tenured UFC career, Maia has reached savant-level in his application of grappling to MMA. Maia, a martial artist first and fighter second, chooses to win by causing opponents the least amount of damage. But this choice may be the reason that he is yet again being overlooked for a title shot.
Maia is riding a six-fight win streak and coming off a flawless victory over Carlos Condit. But, the UFC is still making him fight again rather than giving him the title shot he deserves. And to make matters worse, they are matching him up with a fighter that is just on the cusp of realizing his own potential.
Let’s be under no illusions: nobody in the UFC welterweight division deserves a title shot other than Maia. Robbie Lawler is coming off a first-round knockout loss to the champion. Stephen Thompson was just beaten by the champion. Additionally, Carlos Condit has been dominated by Woodley and submitted within two minutes by Maia. The welterweight division is starved of a contender and instead of giving Maia a shot, they have forced him to fight Jorge Masvidal.
This is just another shortsighted and downright dumb decision.
Jorge Masvidal has always been talented, and I remember the first time I personally watched him fight. It was when he faced Paul Daley at Shark Fights and on that night, I immediately knew that one day he would do great things. Masvidal is skilled in all aspects of fighting, but a master of none. His real strength comes from his self-belief, something that brought him into the limelight. His self-belief led him to call for a fight with Donald Cerrone. Once he was awarded that fight, he showed the world just how dangerous he is by knocking out ‘Cowboy’ brutally.
Beating Cerrone has given Masvidal the opportunity to build some hype for himself, but feeding him to Maia makes no sense. Maia’s bread and butter are fighters like Masvidal, and it’s likely to be a one-sided submission exhibition. And even on the off-chance he is victorious, Masvidal is a former training partner of Woodley. It’s likely he would struggle to get the better of the former NCAA standout.
The real travesty of this matchmaking is that it highlights the fact that the UFC does not appreciate grapplers. If a flashy striker had a six-fight win streak, you can bet your bottom dollar that he would be given the title shot. But Maia, a humble grappler, is once again being overlooked and under-appreciated.
Regardless of the outcome of this fight, the UFC will have made a mistake. One can only assume that common sense will prevail, and that the UFC will pull Maia from this fight, ultimately setting up a title showdown with Tyron Woodley this summer.