Analysis, Picks, Betting Tip – UFC on Fox: Maia vs. Condit

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With the madness of UFC 202 still marinating in the mind of every MMA fan, it’s back to action for the UFC this weekend as the Octagon visits Vancouver, Canada for the latest show on FOX in the United States.

On paper, this main card looks absolutely fantastic with the undercard a little less encapsulating so the night’s festivities should reach a nice crescendo.

And that should be even further enhanced by the top-quality main-event between welterweight contenders Demian Maia and Carlos Condit who will both be trying to stand out in the hope of gaining a shot at the title currently held by Tyron Woodley.

Born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1977, Demian Maia will be fighting for the thirtieth time on Saturday night – having made his debut fifteen odd years ago. The Brazilian got his career off to a smashing start back then with eleven straight wins. That run included a handful of fights in the UFC and ended with a UFC 102 defeat to Nate Marquardt having previously beaten Ed Herman, Nate Quarry and the American gangster himself, Chael Sonnen. Two fights later Maia found himself in a title shot which turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing as Anderson Silva petulantly toyed with him over five rounds.

To this day, that is still his only UFC title bout. A 3-2 spell followed that before a drop to welterweight rejuvenated his career. In his ten 170 lbs fights Maia is 8-2 and will be hoping to make it six wins in a row on Saturday night having already beaten Gunnar Nelson and Matt Brown in the last 365 days.

Getting past Carlos Condit, though, will be no mean feat. Born, raised and fighting out of Albuquerque, New Mexico Condit is one of the most active and exciting fighters the UFC has ever seen.

A former WEC champion, Condit entered the Octagon in 2009 with 28 fights already under his belt having beaten veterans like Carlo Prater, John Alessio and Frank Trigg. And although he lost his debut to Martin Kampmann he immediately made an impact with five impressive wins, albeit by different means, against Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald, Dan Hardy, Dong Hyun Kim and Nick Diaz.

The last of those saw Condit pick up the interim title in controversial fashion due to a close decision but nonetheless earned himself a unification bout with the fit-again Georges St-Pierre following a knee injury to the Canadian.

That one unfortunately ended in defeat for Condit as did his next outing against Johny Hendricks before a blown out knee against current champion Tyron Woodley put him on the sidelines for a year. Upon his return Condit took out Thiago Alves in violent fashion before losing out to Robbie Lawler in a magnificent fight for the title in January of this year.

So this one amounts to a true fight between grizzled veterans of sport.

Looking at it from a very wide angle, this one looks pretty much like the old-school striker vs. grappler match-ups of the early days of the UFC. And, despite some obvious exceptions which we will get to in a second, in many ways it is.

Condit, the striker, is a magnificent kickboxing and muay-thai practitioner. He fights from outside of a limb’s reach and likes to use his physiological advantage in length to strike from there. His lead and back hand punches are outstanding, as are his kicks and knees of all varieties.

Maia, the grappler, on the other hand, has a game based almost entirely on setting up the takedown and using his ground game. His wrestling is a constantly improving part of his game which he encorporates trips into in order to get his opponent spreadeagled on his back. Once it goes there he’s almost impossible to stop. He has, without a doubt, one of the greatest jiu-jitsu games ever seen in the UFC and passes through guards like a spoon through yogurt. And that’s all before he even tries to choke you or attack a limb.

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Standing up is where the issues arise, though. Compared to Carlos Condit, Maia’s striking is juvenile and hasn’t progression much past a jab and straight to close the distance and get closer in his whole career. So if this one stays on the feet, expect Condit to win and win well.

But if it goes to the ground that immediately changes.

As much as Maia has a weakness in striking, Condit has the same glaring hole in the wrestling department. If you can get in close to him to grab one of his kicks or can time a single or double leg well, Condit will go to his back relatively easily. Once he’s there, it gets a little better. Condit attacks actively, is extremely good defensively on the floor and hasn’t been submitted in MMA competition in 10 years. That, unfortunately for him, is all against people not named Demian Maia. On Saturday night it’s a totally different kettle of fish.

Personally I see this as an extremely difficult match-up for Carlos Condit because of that wrestling deficiency. If he can keep on his toes and away from Maia he can 100% win this fight but if he gets put on the floor, even once, that percentage drops as rapidly as Bob Sapp.

Over five rounds it’s very difficult to see Maia not getting a hold of him at least once but, as he proved against Nick Diaz, Carlos Condit is well able to fight the full distance to an extremely tight gameplan. That, in itself, makes this one utterly intriguing and basically unmissable.

Prior to that make sure to look out for the other three main card fights which should be very enjoyable too.

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Firstly, Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon rematch their enjoyable fight of the night bout from 2012 which Miller came out on the winning end of. Expect blood in this one again with two of the most exciting journeyman in MMA giving it their all whenever it goes.

Then, Paige VanZant returns from her dancing with the stars hiatus for a tango with Aussie Bec Rawlings in the strawweight division. And I think there could be a big shock in this one. Rawlings has shown huge improvements in recent times and will know this is her opportunity to strike it big. Paige has proven her toughness in her UFC run and will no doubt have improved too so this should be fun.

All that leaves is the co-main event as Brazilian Charles Oliveira welcomes former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis to the featherweight division. This one, like the main event, is pretty much a striker vs. grappler fight with jiu-jitsu ace Oliveria trying to get the submission whilst Taekwondo stylist Pettis looks for the knockout.

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Although Pettis has three losses in a row, he has still yet to be finished in MMA career. Whilst Oliveira has only won two of his twenty-seven fights by decision.

That, for me, would suggest this one is about Pettis surviving any bad ground positions and winning everywhere else. And I think he is well capable of doing that against Oliveira who doesn’t have the ability to undertake the striking and wrestling blueprint which others have followed to beat Pettis. This matchmaking looks designed to get Pettis back into the win column and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t.

FIGHT PICKS

Demian Maia vs. Carlos Condit – 50-50 but I’ll go with Maia
Anthony Pettis vs. Charles Oliveira – Fancy Pettis to win impressively
Paige VanZant vs. Bec Rawlings – Going with the underdog Rawlings
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon – Expect blood, Lauzon.

Sam Alvey vs. Kevin Casey – Alvey
Chad Laprise vs. Thibault Gouti – Laprise
Enrique Barzola vs. Kyle Bochniak – Bochniak
Shane Campbell vs. Felipe Silva – Silva

Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Kennedy – Kennedy
Gareth McLellan vs. Alessio Di Chirico – Alessio
Ryan Janes vs. Adam Hunter – Hunter

BET OF THE WEEK

This week I’m going all in on a 6/1 treble of Pettis, Lauzon and Rawlings

START TIMES

Early Prelims – 10pm on Fight Pass
Prelims – 11pm on BT Sport 2 and Fight Pass
Main Card – 1am on BT Sport 2

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma