This Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on July 29, two of the best Welterweights walking the planet will do battle for the UFC Welterweight championship. Tyron Woodley looks to defend his crown for the second time against one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu artists to ever grace the Octagon, Demian Maia. We stack up both men’s skills, styles and abilities to determine who will walk away the Welterweight king of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Saturday night.
Reach: 74.0 in
Born: Oak Grove, Missouri, United States
Fighting out of: Ferguson, Missouri, United States
Fight Camp: American Top Team
Record: 17-3-1, 7-2-1 in UFC
Notable wins: Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit, Stephen Thompson
Reach: 72.0 in
Born: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fighting out of: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fight Camp: Wand Fight Team
Record: 25-6, 19-6 in UFC
Notable wins: Carlos Condit, Jon Fitch, Chael Sonnen
At the dawn of both men’s careers in mixed martial arts, their clear asset of choice was grappling. For the champion Woodley, he came into the sport a two-time state high school wrestling champion. For the Brazilian challenger, Maia was a third degree black belt in Brazilain jiu-jitsu who had garnered a plethora of accolades as a submission grappler before making the transition to mma. However, as both men pressed forward in their careers, so too did their the rest of their skill sets.
However for the champion Woodley, who has spent the bulk of his career training at American Top Team and most recently with striking coach Duke Roufus at Roufusport, his striking has taken leaps of improvement over the last five years. Before entering the UFC, Woodley only had one victory by knockout, which came against expert grappler Andre Galvao. Since joining the UFC back in 2013, Woodley has secured five knockout victories, all of which were garnered by the use of his stand up abilities.
For Maia, his stand up has certainly seen improvement since his debut back in 2007. Yet, it is fairly indisputable that Maia’s striking has never come close to reaching the levels of his submission grappling. Nor has Maia ever truly displayed a striking arsenal that most of his opponents need to be overly concerned. Now a decade into his UFC career, Maia has only registered one TKO victory in the Octagon that came in the form of an injury. While Maia is capable of surprising Woodley on the feet, the odds of a striking clinic from Maia are the least favorable to bet on come Saturday night.
Advantage: Tyron Woodley
This is truly the most significant aspect of this fight between two dominant grapplers. As noted, Woodley is a talented wrestler with an enveloping top game. Many of Woodley’s best performances during his time under the Strikeforce banner were produced by his exceptional ability to control the fight on the ground, cage wrestle, and earn takedowns. Woodley has seldom shown susceptibility to grapplers in the past, only dropping decision losses to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields in bouts that saw Tyron struggle in this area. However this is only a minor detail in the overall fable that is Woodley’s grappling talent. Woodley has shown a remarkable ability to control men on the mat as well as implement intense offense there.
Maia has authored his entire career on his phenomenal ability to grapple. Maia has attempted a takedown in every round of his UFC career which shows his tenacity although it also shows his predictability. Nonetheless, Maia has secured a takedown against his last 12 opponents and out of his 25 total UFC fights Maia has taken down 21 of them. Add that to the fact that Maia has submitted nine of his UFC opponents with four separate submissions. Maia is a force when he is implementing offense on the mat with his most preferred position being the back take or mount.
However, a possible spin on the narrative could be that Maia cannot compete successfully in this bout without being able to take Woodley down. Woodley will not be an easy opponent to bring down either as he holds a 91% takedown defense ratio, which is the most impressive among ranked Welterweights. Woodley is monstrously strong in the clinch and his added wrestling ability will likely allow him to dictate this fight and where it takes place. This by itself gives Woodley an advantage especially considering Woodley himself is by no means incapable of taking Maia down and orchestrating some dangerous offense of his own. While Maia is the better overall grappler, for the purposes of an mma bout Woodley holds the advantage.
Advantage: Tyron Woodley
If there is one guarantee that you can be sure of come Saturday, it is that Demian Maia will be looking for the submission win. Few things are more dangerous in this sport than when Demian Maia is working a submission hold on you. Woodley knows this as well as how foolish it would be to try and inflict the same consequence upon one of the most decorated submission grapplers in the sports history. Maia can attack from so many positions on the mat and could end the bout in a heartbeat. If Maia has a chance in this bout, it will be through the expert use of his submission abilities.
Advantage: Demian Maia
- Strength: Woodley will undoubtedly be the stronger man in this bout, which gives Maia the added challenge of having to maneuver through this particular problem in the hopes of getting Woodley down to the mat. With this advantage Woodley can fight out of the clinch, boast his sensational takedown defense, and land the much more powerful shots standing and on the mat if Woodley finds himself on top.
- Patience: Woodley has proven to have the patience necessary to let a fight play out. He will wait for the challenger to come to him, read his movements and plays throughout the fight and will explode when the need arises. Many experts look at this as a point of contention for Woodley’s cardio. I argue that even if Woodley’s cardio is questionable, he has found a way to take that advantage away from his opponents.
- Speed: Woodley is certainly explosive everywhere. Whether on the feet or on the mat, when Woodley commits to anything in a fight he does so aggressively and explosively. And he can do so effectively because he possesses quick reflexes and speed to enhance anything that he does in the Octagon.
- Experience: Maia has been here before, yet he is now doing so at the proper weight class and in his 26th fight under the UFC banner. He knows that this is truly his last shot at combat sports glory and will not hesitate to do what must be done to get the job done Saturday night.
- Pressure: Since dropping down to Welterweight, Maia has taken every single opponent in this weight class down and does so by implementing pressure that his opponents are seldom ready to combat. Maia will bring this same pressure into the cage knowing he has bring the fight to where he holds the best chance at winning.
- Endurance: Maia has gone five rounds on numerous occasions and has proven to have the stamina and endurance to take what his opponents can throw at him and still look to win. Unless Woodley puts him away, we shouldn’t expect Maia to not continue looking for offense and come forward.
Make no mistake, the champion has no easy challenge ahead of him this Saturday and will certainly have to bring his best from start to finish in this fight. Maia presents a very credible threat to the crown and has the skills necessary to exploit weaknesses in the champion. In the end however, “The Chosen One” has the skill set necessary to keep the fight standing and see that the job gets done and will walk away from this fight with a belt around his waist once again with his second straight UFC title defense.
Prediction: Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision