Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight grapplers Demian Maia and Tony Martin will square off this Saturday (June 29, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 3 from inside Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Maia lost to three elite wrestlers in a row, which happened to coincide with his 40th birthday, which saw many assume the older Brazilian was just about done. Instead, Maia faced an opponent outside of the Top 5 for first time in more than two years, almost effortlessly taking his back and strangling him. Meanwhile, Martin has really developed his craft since jumping from Lightweight to 170 pounds. Everything is clicking for “Rocco,” who’s put together four consecutive victories in the best win streak of his career.
Let’s take a closer look at this match up of Welterweight talent:
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 211), Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 21), Neil Magny (UFC 190), Rick Story (UFC 160), Gunnar Nelson (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 214), Colby Covington (UFC Fight Night 119), Rory MacDonald (UFC 170), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: Everyone knows what Maia intends to do when the Octagon door closes, yet so few are able to stop him. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard excels at dragging foes to the mat from the clinch and single-leg takedown, pursuing the back with a single determination that has overwhelmed many.
What’s the key to victory for a man who does roughly the same thing against every opponent? Maia is going to strike with Martin for roughly 30-60 seconds before diving for his lead leg, and it’s up to Martin to stop him.
We’ll see whether he can.
Anthony Rocco Martin
Key Wins: Sergio Moraes (UFC Fight Night 146), Jake Matthews (UFC Fight Night 142), Ryan LaFlare (UFC 229)
Key Losses: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (UFC Fight Night 116), Leonardo Santos (UFC Fight Night 62), Beneil Dariush (UFC Fight Night 49)
Keys to Victory: Since moving up in weight, Martin has really doubled down as a counter striker. On the outside, Martin picks at opponents with jabs and calf kicks, always looking for an opportunity to take top position and submit himself.
Against Maia, denying the takedown is obviously the first priority, but it’s rarely so easy. The best Martin can hope for in the opening five minutes is to rip the inside of his foe’s leg or belly a few times. When put on the ground, Martin must walk the fine line of making sure Maia is expending energy without exposing his neck in the process.
Round two and three is where things get potentially interesting, as Maia’s age does eventually catch up to him.
How these two match up: This is a great veteran vs. prospect hitting his stride match up.
There are two very clear paths in which this match up can play out. In one, Maia forces his foe to the mat with ease, either dominating for the full 15 minutes or strangling his foe at some point. In the other, Martin is able to overcome the early control of Maia without getting choked before making things very difficult in the latter half of the fight against his 41-year-old foe.
Martin’s calf kicks and ability to maintain range well are great weapons against Maia, weapons that improve his chance at victory. However, his pair of match ups at Lightweight against Brazilian jiu-jitsu focused opponents who could actually wrestle did not go particularly well for him. Both Beneil Dariush and Leonardo Santos cut through Martin’s guard and strangled him, and even with his dramatic improvements, it’s not hard to see the same thing happening here.
Prediction: Maia via submission