The last time Demian Maia suffered consecutive defeats, he bounced back with seven straight wins.
That was four years ago, and Maia has made consistent improvements to his all-around game. On the heels of back-to-back losses to Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will attempt to get back to winning ways when he takes on Kamaru Usman in the UFC Fight Night 129 headliner on Saturday in Santiago, Chile.
Ahead of Maia’s showdown with Usman, here are five moments that have come to define him:
Maia provided a glimpse into his rich grappling pedigree in his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut at UFC 77, where he submitted Ryan Jensen with a rear-naked choke in the first round. His brilliance earned him “Submission of the Night” honors, the first of his seven post-fight bonuses. The others: two for “Performance of the Night,” one for “Fight of the Night” and three more for “Submission of the Night.”
After beating Jensen, Maia submitted his next four opponents: Ed Herman, Jason MacDonald, Nate Quarry and Chael Sonnen. Maia spoiled Sonnen’s return to the Octagon at UFC 95, tapping the All-American wrestler with a triangle choke. In all, he has secured 12 of his 25 pro wins by submission. Lucasz Chlewicki, Vitelmo Kubis Bandeira and Fabio Nascimento were the victims outside the UFC.
Grinding the Grinders
Maia made life difficult for another renowned wrestler at UFC 156 in February 2013, when he pushed Jon Fitch to the fence and dragged him to the canvas almost at will. On Fitch’s back for much of the match, the Brazilian picked up a unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring it 30-27. Maia in a previous appearance had manhandled Rick Story and dealt the American the first submission loss of his career. A neck crank forced Story to tap 2:30 into the first round and ended a long submission drought for Maia.
Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald pinned consecutive losses on Maia at UFC Fight Night 29 and UFC 170. However, he rebounded at “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3” Finale on May 31, 2014, when he decisioned Alexander Yakovlev. It sparked a seven-fight winning streak for Maia, as victories over Ryan LaFlare, Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson, Matt Brown, Carlos Condit and Jorge Masvidal followed.
Fans hoping for a wrestling-versus-Brazilian-jiu-jitsu kind of match when Maia faced Mark Munoz at UFC 131 were probably surprised when a striking battle broke out between the two. While Maia was on the losing end of a unanimous decision, he showed off his improving standup game. Incidentally, the first win of his professional MMA career came by technical knockout.