Courtesy of UFC
Thursday, April 8, 2010 | 11:55 p.m.
Jiu-jitsu specialist Demian Maia knows he has a shot at upsetting the seemingly invincible Anderson Silva during their UFC middleweight championship fight Saturday if he can get Silva to the ground.
The only problem: That is one big "if."
The main event of the first UFC card in Abu Dhabi may be a quick one if Maia opens up the same way he did to Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 last August.
The Brazilian fighter was knocked out just 21 seconds into that fight when he threw an ill-advised head kick that Marquardt punched straight through.
Given what happened in that fight, Maia (12-1) knows he has to find a way to get Saturday's fight to the ground, as Silva's (25-4) standup is even better than Marquardt's.
"It's no secret that I will try and use my jiu-jitsu in the fight," said Maia, who has posted submission victories in five of his six UFC victories. "He is the best fighter in the world, and I will look to take him down and submit him.
"In order to actually take Anderson down, I've been working a lot on my wrestling and my takedowns. I know what to do once we get on the floor, but I need to give myself the best opportunity to win."
There's no question Maia is one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC once he gets a fighter to the ground. He holds the highest submission conversion rate in UFC history.
Even his striking improves on the ground, as he actually has landed more strikes on the ground than he has on his feet over his UFC career.
Back at the very first UFC show ever in 1993, a jiu-jitsu expert named Royce Gracie shocked everyone when he was able to upset bigger, stronger opponents by taking them down and submitting them.
Maia, who received the title shot after Vitor Belfort was forced to pull out with an injury, is hoping that, although the game has evolved since then, he'll be able to use Gracie's strategy to shake up the mixed martial arts world again.
"My hero is Royce Gracie, and now I've got the chance to emulate him and win the UFC championship," Maia said. "It's a very exciting time for me and an opportunity that I simply must take."
Opening odds for the fight have Maia as an 8-to-1 underdog and there's no question he's in for an uphill battle, as Silva's frame should make him one of the most difficult middleweights in the division to takedown.
In his last fight at UFC 101, Silva easily moved up to light heavyweight to take on Forrest Griffin and probably could compete in the heavyweight division with his height and length.
Silva's so accurate with his strikes — 75 percent accuracy in the UFC — that shooting in on him is a risky move.
Although two of the losses in his career have come from submission, Silva hasn't even had an attempt performed on him in over five years.
The one card Maia holds is that his submission skills arguably are the best Silva will ever see and, just like he found out in his fight with Marquardt, sometimes it only takes one mistake to lose a fight.
"I know my jiu-jitsu is good enough to beat the best guys in the world," Maia said. "I need to improve my striking and my wrestling, but I always be best at jiu-jitsu. I know you can't lose concentration when you get in range, otherwise you'll get caught with something.
"You definitely can't take those kind of risks against someone like Anderson."