Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Revelation of Demian Maia and Other Musings from UFC 95

There's no reason to write an article dissecting UFC 95—it was a monument to all that disgusts people about Dana White and the vice-grip his organization holds over mixed martial arts. How in the name of all that's holy does Joe "Big Daddy" Stevenson keep showing up in the main event?

No doubt—Stevenson is tough as nails and bleeds like he's got the skin of a grape.

Of course, he never beats anybody of note either so we don't know anything more about Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez than we knew going in. Great, a unanimous decision over a gatekeeper at a new weight. I guess Diego's not a stiff.

Hadn't he already proved that? Oh well.

There were two far more interesting/important observations to be taken from Saturday's card. Obviously, one is Damien Maia and I'll get to him very shortly. But I'm gonna deal with the other first since it won't take as long.

That is the irritating propensity for MMA fighters to refuse to accept when they have been knocked the f*** out. If you saw that beanpole Stefan Struve get rocked by Junior Dos Santos, you know what I'm talking about.

You understand me even better if you saw Josh Koscheck's behavior after an over-matched Paulo Thiago put the blond blubberer to sleep.

Struve was bad enough. He looked like he was really sincerely trying to convince Dos Santos that the ref stopped the fight too early. In other words, that Junior's win was cheap and undeserved. But I'm sure Struve meant no disrespect.

However, at least there's a chance Stefan was really saying, "yep, you got me—my mouth was open on that one." I hope so because Dos Santos crumpled that tall drink o' water twice before the ref had seen enough. Like I said, there's a chance.

Josh Koscheck? Not so much.

He was stamping around the ring and looked to be refusing to even go near the ref. I'm sure Josh was disappointed because he was dominating that fight up until the knockout. Plus, he did recover quickly after the ref saved his rear. The operative word, of course, being 'saved.'

As Joe Rogan pointed out, Koscheck was in La La Land after that upper-cut and trailing left hook. Josh's hands dropped immediately after the first shot and then he took another substantial blow to his head as he was falling. That dude was O-U-T.

He couldn't even muster a defense as Thiago slowly sauntered towards his prone and defenseless body.

Yet Josh Koscheck kept hammering the ref for the early stoppage and then wouldn't even let the ref touch him, as seems to be customary when raising the hand of the winner.

Forget the crowd—it's groupthink and most of them wouldn't really mind seeing a fighter seriously injured. That was an excellent stoppage (just like Rogan said) and Koscheck acted like a petulant little punk.

Now, I'm sorry I went to bat for him with regards to him having proved himself worthy of a permanent place on the main cards.

Enough though. Them's small potatoes compared to the incomparable Demian Maia.

That guy is a stud and a force to be reckoned with. Not because he beat Chael Sonnen—yet another gatekeeper. But because of the way he did it and what he said afterwards.

The fight itself was a thing to behold. Sonnen knew exactly what Maia was doing, as do all his opponents from this point forward. Even more impressive, it didn't look like Demian was particularly interested in hiding the fact that he had no interest in striking. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist wanted the fight on the ground, somehow, anyhow.

And he did it. With relative ease.

After messing around to tenderize Sonnen for a bit, Maia tossed him to the ground and then rolled him right into a triangle. Game, set, match. That might not sound so easy, but beating a world-class fighter (and that's what most UFC fighters are) in 150 seconds, using the very attack that was expected, qualifies.

Then, after the fight, Maia said he wanted a title shot, wanted the belt, and wanted to prove that you could be the best in the world at a combat sport without hurting anyone (in not so many words).

Yep, Demian Maia is now up there in my pantheon of favorite fighters.

I'm sure he already knows Anderson Silva so I'll let the Spider introduce him to Fedor Emelianenko. It's about time the Last Emperor and Silva had some company because the room was getting a little awkward.

I'm not saying Maia is as good or as special as those other two...yet. It's true he has yet to face some seriously brutal competition. In fact, since he has the misfortune of toiling in the same weight class as the Spider, I'll explicitly say that he's not even ready for a shot at the champ (as he desires).

Maia must certainly pay a couple more dues before moving into the top contender's spot. Maybe fight a couple guys who currently have a claim to that spot. Nate Marquardt seems logical since he won on the UFC 95 card as well, but doesn't deserve another shot at Silva (having been dispatched so easily once already).

Or what about "Dangerous" Dan Henderson? Fresh off a less-than-glittering win over Rich "Ace" Franklin, Henderson seems like a good choice, too.

Thales Leitas would be my final suggestion.

Forget about Yushin "Thunder" Okami. Although I'm sure Dana is angling for that story arc since Okami is the last guy to hang an L on Silva. Whatever. It was by DQ for an illegal kick and the guy's lost to Jake Shields and Franklin since then without beating anyone of sincere threat.

Nah, the real "challengers" at the moment are guys like the other three.

After one or two of those, then I think Demian Maia's resume would more accurately reflect his talent and the combination would genuinely demand a foray into the Spider's web.

For me, that fight would be right up there with Brock Lesnar against Fedor (or Frank Mir if he proves the first submission was not merely the product of Lesnar's inexperience).

Regardless of how quidkly his title shot comes, Demian Maia did all he could to save a card that was otherwise conspicuous only for the posturing/whining of its vanquished fighters. I'm not sure that he succeeded.

But I sure appreciated the effort.

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