UFC Fight Night 129 preview & prediction: Maia vs. Usman

The main event of UFC Fight Night 129 will feature two top 10 welterweights in the world in Demian Maia and Kamaru Usman. We break down the matchup here.

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(Photo Credit: Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp)

After Santiago Ponzinibbio pulled out of the main event of UFC Chile with an injury, grappling legend, Demian Maia stepped up on short notice to take the fight. He will fight Kamaru Usman in the main event this Saturday night. Usman is undefeated in the UFC in seven fights and smothers opponents with his wrestling and pressure. Demian Maia has been in the UFC for nearly 11 years. He has challenged for a world title and holds multiple jiu-jitsu world titles. This will be an outstanding tactical fight to headline Saturday’s card. 

Demian Maia: Inches from glory

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Demian Maia has challenged for both the middleweight and welterweight titles but came up short to Anderson Silva and Tyron Woodley in decisions. Maia’s gameplan is always the same. Get his opponent to the ground and strangle him. He is a fourth degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a multiple time world grappling champion, and has submitted 12 fighters in his career. The biggest problem for Demian Maia in his career has been wrestlers. He took losses to Colby Covington, Tyron Woodley, and Chris Weidman in the UFC. He has beaten Jon Fitch however, so a wrestler is not an automatic loss for Maia. 

Demian Maia is a 4-1 underdog on most betting outlets in this fight but those numbers seem a bit extreme. Usman spent the majority of his time training for a striker and will have to adjust to a grappling specialist. Anyone who decides to take down Maia as Usman might, risks being submitted. If Kamaru Usman pieces Maia up on the feet, he could pull guard and look to secure a submission off the back. While it is fair that he is an underdog, the odds are inflated and Demian Maia could absolutely pull off a win and get right back into the title picture. 

Kamaru Usman: Undefeated and on the rise

Kamaru Usman is a rising prospect in the stacked UFC Welterweight division but he has had trouble finding people willing to fight him. As a former NCAA Division II Champion, he has relentless top pressure along with solid striking. Of his seven fights inside the octagon, five of them have gone the distance but were mostly dominant performances for Usman. Leon Edwards is the only top 15 opponent Usman has faced so taking on a former title challenger and seasoned veteran in Demian Maia will be a huge jump in competition and huge opportunity to advance his career. 

In 2016, Usman called out Demian Maia and said that he wants to prove that he is the best grappler in the division. If he decides to get into a grappling match against Maia, he could be in for a long night despite having the advantage in most areas of the fight. The obvious key to victory for Usman is takedown defense. The last two wrestlers that Maia ran into in Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington, stuffed every takedown attempted by the Brazilian. If Usman can do the same, he will be able to use his striking to gain an advantage. WIth a win over Demian Maia, “The Nigerian Nightmare” could break into the top 5 in the welterweight division. 


Demian Maia has worked on his wrestling and his standup and improved by miles over the years. The only problem is that after taking this fight on short notice, he has likely not improved his takedowns much since the last time we saw him fight. Colby Covington was able to stuff Maia’s takedown attempts over and over again and force him into a boxing match. Maia did show improvement in his striking but likely will not be able to out-point Usman on the feet. 

If Kamaru Usman can stay on his feet, he can win this fight. He has solid punching power and excellent takedown defense, making him the favorite in this fight. As long as his pride does not get in the way and he does not try to prove that he is the better grappler, he should get a decision win. Do not expect this fight to be a brawl or full of excitement, but rather a tactical exchange between two contrasting styles. 

Usman by Decision