by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
The announcement that Demian Maia would be the fighter to replace Vitor Belfort at UFC 112 came as a surprise to some, but after learning that top contender Chael Sonnen simply could not be ready in time for the fight, it made sense that the submission wizard would fight Anderson Silva.
With his only loss coming by way of knockout to Nate Marquardt last year, Maia has beaten some of the best fighters in the UFC, including a submission over Sonnen. Now he’ll get his shot at the middleweight belt.
At the UFC 110 press conference on Wednesday, UFC president Dana White talked about the decision to put Maia in the title fight. He also says that the rumor about the winner of Wanderlei Silva and Michael Bisping being considered for the shot is simply not true due to the timing being too close together.
“These guys are fighting now and Demian Maia’s one of the best in the world,” said White. “Obviously the guy who should get that shot right now is Chael (Sonnen), but he just came out of a really tough fight, he’s busted up, and Demian’s one of the best in the world.”
White admits that he loves guys who are willing to step up and help the organization in situations like this one, while also taking a shot at beating one of the best fighters to ever step foot in the Octagon.
“Opportunities pop up for people. I like guys who jump and take the opportunity,” White commented. “You’d be surprised how many guys don’t.”
There was concern whether Maia would be available to take the fight against Silva at all due to a laceration on his eyelid suffered in his victory over Dan Miller at UFC 109. The UFC president says he was cleared by the doctors and they are happy to have him in the main event at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi.
“We had concern that maybe he couldn’t fight because of that, then you go get him checked out,” White said. “We’ve got Dr. Shu. He’s the best, this guy, and that’s the other thing, the guys that we have on hand to see these guys whether they’re injured, whatever their problems might be, we fly them in. They see the best specialists and these guys let us know whether or not they can compete.”
With Maia’s jiu-jitsu background, it’s no secret that the ground game will be his best chance to beat Silva. The question came in quick if their was any concern that he would duplicate the last prominent ground fighter, Thales Leites, that faced Silva last year and put on what can only be described as a very lackluster performance.
“I can’t sit there and try to make a fight for Abu Dhabi and go ‘God, I hope he doesn’t fight like Thales Leites did.’ I think Demian Maia is a very talented guy, he’s one of the best fighters in his weight class and I think he wants to win this title,” said White.