Can Demian Maia avoid a third straight loss? | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
WelterweightsDemian Maia (18-6, 12-6 UFC) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (21-4-1, 0-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Pitting a UFC newcomer against a veteran of 18 Octagon appearances is a curious pairing, to say the least, but after tough defeats to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald, Maia could use a step down -- even if top 10 fighters are not usually allowed such a luxury. This bout was also made out of necessity, as Mike Pierce was originally scheduled to face Maia before the injury bug hit.
This is not to say that Yakovlev will be an easy out. The Russian enters the UFC on the heels of a signature victory over Paul Daley. At 29 years old and with 26 professional bouts on his resume, he should be fairly polished overall. Still, Yakovlev is a wrestler-grappler first and foremost, which means he will probably have a difficult time against Maia.
When forced to combat the rangy striking of MacDonald for the majority of the final two rounds of their UFC 170 encounter, Maia struggled. For all the talk of his improved striking, the former Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist can look lost if he is unable to get into tie-up or takedown range.
Yakovlev is more of a counter-striker who relies on kicks to maintain distance, but he is not going to be able to fend off Maia for a full 15 minutes. Even if Yakovlev can secure the takedown, Maia’s ability to create submission opportunities from his guard will give the UFC rookie pause. Yakovlev could also have difficulty maintaining position against Maia, a former middleweight.
The Pick: Yakovlev’s strengths are right in Maia’s wheelhouse. Expect a rough debut for the Russian. Maia wins by submission in round one or two.
Next Fight » Rony Mariano Bezerra vs. Robbie Peralta