UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is widely and accurately regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. Having made devastatingly successful forays into the light-heavyweight division and expressed interest in competing at heavyweight, one is forced to wonder what challenges remain for the prolific striker at 185 lbs.
While some are counting dark horse Demian Maia out of his impending UFC 112 clash with Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight belt, Silva himself is not so quick to dismiss the threat that Maia’s elite brand of Jiu-jitsu poses. Indeed, he sees this fight as fitting the classic striker vs. grappler role, with either man possessing equal chances at victory.
“My goal is to always fight against the best,” Silva told Fighters Only. “Demian Maia is getting an opportunity to fight for the title and it’s a big opportunity for him. The world of jiu jitsu wants to see this fight and the stand-up world wants to see this fight.”
Silva’s fight with Maia has lost its luster in the eyes of many fans who complain that Maia is not the rightful contender to the middleweight throne. Silva was originally scheduled to face Vitor Belfort until Belfort was forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury. The next man in line for Silva was Chael Sonnen, who earned the number one contender’s spot by defeating Nate Marquardt at UFC 109, but Sonnen was ruled out due to a cut to the head he suffered in his fight with Marquardt that would prevent him from getting in a full training camp in time. So the UFC turned to Maia, who owns a win over Sonnen but a more recent loss to Marquardt in a move with which some disagree. Again, Silva defends his fellow Brazilian and maintains that he presents a stiff challenge.
“He does have the credentials to be fighting for the title, he is a great fighter and a great challenge. Right now I am focused on defending my title and taking on the biggest challenges that I can face,” said “The Spider”.
It is hard to argue that, in this situation, Maia isn’t the best man for the job. He has an extensive arsenal of submissions and is arguably the best Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner competing in MMA. With Belfort and Sonnen out of action for now and with Marquardt already having tried and failed to dethrone Silva, it only makes sense to promote Maia.
Maia will, like everyone else, have an incredibly difficult task in defeating the middleweight king. Silva owns the most precise, powerful, and unpredictable striking in the game and while some would point to his ground game as a weakness, “The Spider” does own a BJJ Black Belt under the Nogueira brothers and has not shown the kind of ineptitude on the ground that would make him an easy submission. That said, Maia is the man with the best chances at getting Silva down and tapping him out quickly. We will find out Saturday night if he can accomplish what no other UFC middleweight has yet been able to do.