What’s to say about Demian Maia (25-7) that hasn’t been said before? Submission savant? Unextraordinary looking old man?
There’s a reason that Maia, despite having 12 submission victories, is considered “boring”; he’s a positional grappler. Fighters like Nate Diaz will soften opponents with strikes before choking them while those in the mold of Anthony Pettis use explosive speed and athleticism to exploit tiny windows of opportunity. Maia does none of those things; he’ll get a takedown and inch his way towards a better position like a timid date. If he can’t get the submission, that’s fine; he’ll just hold position and continuously pressure his opponents.
His opponents don’t have that bored, frustrated expression that continuously grounded fighters often have. Rather, you see a look of alarm on their face because while the fans may not see it the fighter is desperately trying to stop Maia from passing guard or locking up a submission. It’s a silent film of a man trying to hold back an avalanche.
Even with the improvements to his wrestling and “striking”, the shutout loss to Tyron Woodley was disheartening. With his wrestling denied and his striking nowhere strong enough to risk eating a right hand, Maia looked downright lost. He had no ability to improvise with body kicks or counters.
It means that if you can deny Maia’s main offense (easier said than done), you can turn him into a sitting duck. He won’t come back out of nowhere and steal a win.
It’s weird to think about a wrestler who trash talks. That’s like the Sandman blasting WWE music; it’s a lot of rigmarole for something that’ll eventually put you to sleep. That being said, Colby Covington (12-1) is a monster.
In some respects, Covington is a poor man’s Kevin Lee.
In the open floor, he’ll throw huge power punches and kicks that frequently leave opponents reeling. These aren’t one-offs either; he’ll throw massive combinations to ensure that his opponents won’t counter him. He uses his striking to keep opponents on edge until he can plow through them with his explosive double-leg takedown. His top game is tenacious and withering; you can get off your back but not for long.
That’s where the similarities to Lee end, however.
Covington’s shots sting while Lee’s punish and he can’t consistently finish on the ground. Conversely, he has a deep gas tank and a killer clinch game. This is the guy that out-clinched Dong Hyun Kim, one of the welterweight division’s premier grinders.
The only man who beat him was Warlley Alves who caught him in a guillotine when Covington got too sloppy with a takedown attempt. It’s not something that will happen again and outside of that loss, no one has had an answer to Covington’s frenetic offense.
Covington is younger, more athletic and riding a four-fight win streak. But the strongest opponent he’s faced is Dong Hyun Kim, who is a great clinch grappler but not much else. Maia is an incredible step up in competition, unlike anything he’s ever faced.
Maia fought and gutted out a decision against Jorge Masvidal, an incredible striker and grappler in his own right who may be one or two fights away from a title shot. He destroyed John Fitch, Carlos Condit, and Neil Magny in their primes with his grappling. Yes, Maia is long in the tooth but the question is can Covington bring anything to the table that Maia hasn’t seen?
The answer is no. Covington is opening as a soft favorite, and it’s possible he’ll win. But Maia is a dangerous veteran and the men who have beaten him are extraordinary. Look for the hype train to be stopped after a strong opening by Covington.
Maia via Decision
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