Great Debate: Woodley vs Maia

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Hello fight fans, it’s time for part 2 of this week’s Great Debate series. Today we have a battle for Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley against challenger Demian Maia. Joining us for our debates are Christopher Rothstein from Cage Side with Christopher Rothstein and Travis Lizotte from Western Mass MMA.

Why Maia Will Win

By Travis Lizotte

    Former Middleweight Contender, turned Top Welterweight Contender Demian Maia will look to “shock the world” Saturday night as the Brazilian Grappling Guru embarks on the fight he has waited his entire career for, when he steps in the Octagon against Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley the current UFC Welterweight Champion in the Co-Main Event of a stacked UFC 214. Sao Paulo, Brazil’s Maia, made his intent known over the last three years that he wishes to taste UFC gold before the 39 year olds career comes to a close. Maia has reeled off seven straight wins in the UFC’s Welterweight Division over that span since his loss to Rory MacDonald at UFC 170; leaving in his wake an impressive list of Top Contenders, including Jorge Masvidal, Carlos Condit, Matt Brown, Gunnar Nelson and Neil Magny on an impressive climb to his current spot as Number One Contender for the belt that Woodley currently owns. Maia’s climb to the top may not be one of the flashiest of stories to hit the UFC in recent memory, but for one of the Top Grapplers and Submission Specialists in UFC history, he has forged a path that is unique to his craft. Maia has, time and time again, shown his willingness to fight for 25 minutes, generally avoiding heavy damage from significant strikes, while applying restricting pressure on the ground and in the clinch against the cage, to grind out some of the flashiest of fighters the Division has to offer.  

    There is little doubt that Maia will have to follow a perfectly executed game plan if he expects to dethrone the Heavy Handed Wrestler and King of the Welterweights; Tyron Woodley. Woodley has shown bursts of greatness and dynamic power in both his hands and high class wrestling techniques. Woodley has the ability to dismantle some of the toughest fighters on the UFC roster, but if there has been one knock on the Champion it has to be his “Gas Tank.” If Woodley doesn’t connect with his power early on, that power typically becomes his greatest detriment as the fight goes on leaving him gassed, as he has been unable to keep his pace going throughout full rounds and into the deeper rounds of his fights.  Woodley often expends so much energy to gain the upper hand that once he attains that position he will often take the opportunity to rest before furthering his position or looking for a finish. This flaw became particularly obvious in his last two fights with Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, when Woodley failed to have the energy to finish the fights when it looked like he had Thompson hurt, this knock on his game will be exactly what Maia will be looking to exploit. When you fight Maia you have no room for rest, it’s those points in the fight where Maia will look to make Woodley pay by dragging the exhausted Champion into “deep water.” Maia has the ability to find the holes in Woodley’s game and patiently grind Woodley down until a spot presents itself where he can take Woodley’s back and work towards putting him to sleep, in one of the number of way’s he knows how.

    Maia’s ability to reverse position on the ground or to take his opponents back even from standing or with his back against the cage is going to be one of the key for the Brazilian in this fight, along with his ever improving elusiveness on the feet.  Maia has shown the ability to slip significant strikes in his recent contests; Maia’s elusiveness has allowed him to stay in fights longer while his opponent expends energy looking for the finish and eventually gassing out. Woodley must do his best not to gas out early in rounds and must show that he can recover quickly between rounds or it will be a long night for him. As Maia grows more comfortable weathering the short bursts of energy from Woodley, he will be able to pick apart Champion with his crafty grappling and spider like submission game. It is widely talked about that Maia is the last fighter on the roster you want on your back, however Maia maintains the ability to gain the back of nearly all of his opponents at some point in his fights and I see Woodley being no different. I see the end coming in the same way that many of Maia’s fights end; Woodley will eventually get tired from trying to find Maia’s chin with his heavy hands, failing to connect at an impactful rate, then Woodley will look to press Maia against the fence in effort to rest before attempting to score a takedown of Maia, once on the ground Woodley will take some time in the Wrestlers ride in attempt regain his power. That is where Maia will do his work and scramble into a position where he can choke the life out of Woodley. Maia will use a wide line of choke attempts to wear Woodley down, keep him guessing and defending. Maia will eventually work to find the hole he will need to finish the champ, submission chokes from the back being the Maia calling card.

    I believe that Woodley will last through the first three rounds of the fight, possibly even winning two of the first three rounds, however you will want to keep an eye on his conditioning at the end of the first round and how he responds to his corner between rounds one and two. If Woodley gasses early the fight will indeed be much shorter, Maia will recognize when Woodley will be able to be put away, as will Woodley himself. Once Woodley realizes he does not have enough energy left it will be too late to overcome the Grappling and Submission game of Maia and his night and reign as champion will become short lived. Given the fact that Woodley undoubtedly worked to better his cardio during fight camp and that Maia has no problem being  patient when looking for the finish; I believe that Maia finally shuts the lights out on Woodley at some point later in the fourth round by Rear Naked Choke, putting the cap on his career in the best way he knows how, submitting his way to a UFC title and furthering his campaign as one of the greatest Grapplers to ever compete in the sport and cementing his legacy as one of the Greatest fighters of a dying generation.

Prediction: Maia by Submission RD 4


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Why Woodley Will Win:

By Christopher Rothstein

Tyron Woodley, the reigning, defending UFC Welterweight champion of the world is set to defend his belt this weekend in the co-main event of UFC 214 in Anaheim California right before we see the main event of Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier, for Cormier’s Light heavyweight title, which has definitely taken most of the attention off of every other fight on  the card, and that’s good for Woodley. No pressure to some degree,but he still has to win to silence his critics, of which I am one.

Woodley no doubt has all the tools to continue his reign at the top, even against arguably the best grappler in mma in his opponent Demian Maia. Yet in his last two fights he almost seemed passive, and overly cautious against Stephen Thompson. The first time they fought it ended in a draw. And in the 2nd encounter he won a decision of the majority kind, meaning one judge had it all even while the other two had it 48-47 for the champ. And while the victory allowed him to move forward from a difficult 2 fight streak since winning the title, questions are still unanswered as to if he is who he says he is, a hall of famer of the future.

I think Woodley,  who knocked out Robbie Lawler to win the belt, has to win this fight, and do so convincingly as he did when he won the belt.

It will be easy for Woodley to fight safe against Maia, who likes to smother his opponents with his aggressive style of grappling and BJJ, by avoiding the take downs which his wrestling pedigree certainly should convince even Woodley’s doubters that he can keep the fight where he wants, which is on his feet. There he holds the striking and power advantage over Maia.

Now I could try to break down every technical aspect of the match up between these two top drawer athletes, but it really isn’t a necessity at this point. It’s a battle between a grappler and a striker, who can wrestle, and do it well.

I am convinced that Woodley who has been trying hard to prove to us all that he is going to be the champion for the foreseeable future, is going to come out more aggressive in this fight than he has in his last two. He will be looking to finish, and finish early.

I have been in contact with members of his camps at Roufus Sport, and American Top Team who asked to remain anonymous. And both have told me that Tyron has been shedding all comers off his back with ease, and at one point was being mauled by two at a time on his back, and was able to work back to his feet in a matter of seconds, and has been repeating that drill all during this camp. How true is that? Who knows, sources that are there could be exaggerating what happens behind closed doors. However if what I have been told is true, Maia might be in for a lot more of a fight with Woodley than he anticipated.

At the end of the day Woodley’s power will be the deciding factor in this fight, and he will end it in rd 2 by knockout!

Prediction: Woodley by KO Rd 2

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