Maia vs Shields fight picks

Let’s be honest: televised mid-week fight cards are

awesome, no matter what the line-up looks like.

Seriously, as great as Wednesdays are normally as a symbol of

having officially passed the halfway point of the standard work

week, “Hump Day” is even better when you know that

after your third day in the office (or wherever you work), waiting

for you at home are 10 televised fights over 5 hours, culminating

with what should be a technical battle between two of the best

grapplers in the sport today.

That’s a good deal, even if you live on the West Coast and

have to catch the action on your DVR. In fact, that might even be

better since you can buzz through the commercials.

Regardless of how you catch the action from Wednesday’s

href="http://www.ufc.com/event/ufc-fight-night-maia-shields#/fight"

target="_blank">UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields event in Barueri,

Brazil, make sure you catch it – this is a tasty blend of

emerging talents, potentially explosive pairings, and important

divisional tilts that could help the victorious fighters earn their

place in the title conversation in their respective weight

classes.

With that said, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball

and take a stab at predicting how these fights play out.

Demian Maia (18-4) vs. Jake Shields (28-6-1, 1

NC)

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Shields is a stiff test for anyone, and the kind of grappler

that can normally neutralize an opponent with grappling along the

fence and from top position, but Maia has been on another level

since embarking on his career at welterweight, and should continue

to roll here.

His fight with Jon Fitch ion February provides the blueprint for

what should transpire in this one. Fitch was considered one of the

better grapplers in the division heading into that contest, and

Maia not only shut him down, but dominated him for the full 15

minutes. In each of his three fights since transitioning to the

170-pound ranks, Maia has made it look easy, and that isn’t

because he’s been fighting sub-par competition.

In going back to his grappling roots, Maia has once again

started tapping into what made him a dominant force in the

middleweight division. While most fighters strive to be as well

rounded as possible, the Brazilian now plays to his strengths

again, using the threat of improved striking to keep opponents

honest, but aggressively pursuing the clinch and takedown from the

outset.

Shields has the skills to make Maia work hard, especially early,

but ultimately, this plays out much like the Fitch fight, and the

former middleweight title challenger comes away with a four

consecutive victory.

Prediction: Demian Maia by Decision

Erick Silva (15-3) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (17-2-1, 1

NC)

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This is a tremendously interesting fight, as both athletes are

on the fringes of contention, and their greatest paths to victory

are diametrically opposite.

Kim has bounced back from a stretch of two losses in three

fights with a pair of lopsided victories to once again position

himself within reach of cracking the Top 10. On back-to-back

outings, the massive South Korean welterweight has used his

superior grappling and positional control to dominate opponents

¬– first Paulo Thiago, and then Siyar Bahadurzada.

Tabbed as a future star and potential contender when he debuted

at UFC 134, Silva rebounded from a loss to the aforementioned Jon

Fitch with a slick, first-round submission win over Jason High back

in June. Unlike the methodical Kim, Silva is all about fast,

explosive moments, and finishing things quickly, as 12 of his 15

career wins have come inside the distance.

Much like the headliner, this one too should play out similarly

to a fight involving the now departed (and frequently referenced)

Fitch.

Provided that Kim can withstand the early, ferocious onslaught

that Silva will unleash at the beginning of this contest,

“Stun Gun” should be able to out-work the promising

Brazilian talent in the clinch and on the ground, draining his

energy reserves by forcing him to grapple and work from defensive

positions.

Kim has cleaned up many of the defensive deficiencies that left

him vulnerable in the past, and has steadily improved as he’s

moved up the welterweight ladder. This could very well be the fight

people point to in the future to identify where he transitioned

into being a legitimate threat in the division.

Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim by unanimous decision.

Thiago Silva (15-3, 2 NC) vs. Matt Hamill

(11-4)

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All signs point to this ending badly for Hamill.

After a brief retirement, he returned to competition and the win

column at UFC 152 with a tepid performance against Roger Hollett.

Heading into this one, his long-time trainer and coach, Duff

Holmes, told FoxSports.com that he refused to train his friend and

pupil out of a belief that “The Hammer” should no

longer be fighting.

And now he’s stepping into the cage with Silva, a

powerful, devastating striker who looks to be healthy and ready to

make another march up the light heavyweight rankings after three

years of injuries, suspensions, and poor showings.

Silva traditionally takes a couple minutes to get started, but

he has tremendous finishing instincts ¬– when he sees

you’re hurt, he swarms. Once he finds his range, he’ll

put Hamill on his heels, and he won’t stop unloading until

the fight is over.

Prediction: Thiago Silva by TKO, Round 1.

Fabio Maldonado (19-6) vs. Joey Beltran (14-8, 1

NC)

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This one should be fun, as both guys are granite-chinned

brawlers who like to stand in the pocket and sling leather.

After dropping three straight, Maldonado picked up a get right

win over Roger Hollett back in May, while Beltran is returning to

action following a nine-month hiatus brought on by a positive test

after his December 2012 fight with Igor Pokrajac.

As good as Beltran looked in his last outing – and he

looked very good – this feels like a bad match-up for

“The Mexicutioner.” While he’s game to

stand-and-trade and powerful enough to get the better of things

against most, Maldonado is on a different level in terms of his

ability to take a beating and keep coming at you.

Glover Teixeira, who will step into the cage to battle for the

light heavyweight title against Jon Jones at UFC 169 in February,

couldn’t finish Maldonado, and ran into some dicey moments

when the former professional boxer clipped him.

If Teixeira couldn’t put Maldonado away, Beltran

won’t either.

Prediction: Fabio Maldonado by Unanimous Decision. (Fight of

the Night)

Mike Pierce (17-5) vs. Rousimar Palhares

(14-5)

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Everything about this fight stacks up against Palhares.

For starters, it’s his maiden trip to the 170-pound weight

class. As much as the move makes sense for the man whose nickname

– “Toquinho” – translates to “little

tree stump,” getting to the middleweight limit hasn’t

always been easy for the Brazilian submission specialist.

Secondly, he’s been on the sidelines for the last nine

months, serving a suspension after testing positive for elevated

levels of testosterone in his loss to Hector Lombard.

Thirdly, Mike Pierce is criminally underrated, and is champing

at the bit to earn a fifth consecutive victory and make a real

statement in this one.

Look for the American to avoid the early submission attempts of

Palhares, and turn this one into a grind, forcing the returning

Brazilian to carry his weight along the cage until he makes a

mistake. When he does, Pierce will capitalize.

Prediction: Mike Pierce by TKO, Round 2.

T. J. Dillashaw (8-1) vs. Raphael Assuncao

(20-4)

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If you wanted to ascribe to the theories and forumulas of MMA

Math, you lean towards Dillashaw, as the former Ultimate Fighter

finalist finished shared opponent Issei Tamura one second later

than Assuncao, but stopped Vaughan Lee midway through the first;

Assuncao caught him in an armbar early in the second.

Since MMA Math is an inexact science with infinite flaws and

cyclical problems (ex: The Marquardt-Maia-Sonnen Paradox),

let’s stick with the eyeball test when determining which of

these two bantamweights on four-fight winning streaks will remain

in the win column and take another step towards title

contention.

As good as Assuncao has looked since moving down to the

135-pound ranks, Dillashaw has looked every bit the next Team Alpha

Male title contender he was billed to be heading into Season 14 of

The Ultimate Fighter. While he came up short there, he hasn’t

lost since, and has looked progressively better (and more

comfortable) in each successive appearance.

The Sacramento-based fight team has been on fire this year

(they’re unbeaten in the UFC), and that shouldn’t

change here. Dillashaw is the faster, more dynamic of the two, and

mixes his striking up extremely well. He’ll keep Assucnao

guessing, catch him with something nasty, and earn the finish.

Prediction: TJ Dillashaw by TKO, Round 2. (Knockout of the

Night)

Ildemar Alcantara (19-5) vs. Igor Araujo

(23-6)

Alcantara has a pair of UFC wins – one at light

heavyweight, one at welterweight – to his name already, but

neither have been overly impressive. As much as this is

Araujo’s maiden voyage on the UFC’s big stage (he

competed on TUF 16, reaching the quarterfinals), count on the Team

Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter being prepared for the moment, and

capitalizing on this opportunity.

Prediction: Igor Araujo by Submission, Round 2.

Yan Cabral (10-0) vs. David Mitchell (12-3)

With 10 consecutive submission wins to start his career, Cabral

was one of the early favorites heading into the competition on

Season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, advancing to the

semifinals with a second-round submission win over Team

Nogueira’s David Vieira. A broken hand forced him from the

tournament, but he returns here for his UFC debut, and should keep

his winning streak rolling.

Predition: Yan Cabral by Submission, Round 1. (Submission of

the Night)

Chris Cariaso (14-5) vs. Iliarde Santos

(27-8-1)

Santos showed hints of power and knockout potential in his loss

to Ian McCall in August, but Cariaso is the more well rounded and

more conditioned of the two, and will blend his striking and

grappling smoothly in this one, halting his losing streak at

two.

Prediction: Chris Cariaso by Unanimous Decision.

Alan Patrick (10-0) vs. Garett Whiteley (7-0)

Neither of these guys has faced any real competition in their

respective careers, which makes this pretty much a coin-flip fight.

Homefield advantage obviously goes to the Brazilian, Patrick (full

name: Alan Patrick “Nuguette” Silva Alves), but

Whiteley has crushed all seven of the cans he’s faced so far,

while Patrick has been to the cards in half his appearances.

It’s an opening bout upset!

Prediction: Garett Whiteley by TKO, Round 2.