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UFC Fight Night 170: Lee vs. Oliveira - Predictions and Picks

  • The UFC heads back to Brazil this weekend for a fun-sounding Fight Night headlined by two Lightweight contenders.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Preview
Modified 09 Mar 2020, 23:00 IST

Welterweights: Demian Maia vs. Gilbert Burns

Demian Maia remains hugely successful at the age of 42
Demian Maia remains hugely successful at the age of 42

After suffering 3 losses in a row – to Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman – it looked like Demian Maia’s time at the top of the 170lbs division was coming to an end as 2019 dawned. But the 42-year old veteran then enjoyed a tremendous year, defeating younger opponents in Lyman Good, Anthony Rocco Martin, and Ben Askren, picking up two more submissions in the process.

At such an age, it’s natural to question exactly how much more Maia has in the tank, but his preferred style of fighting – positional-based grappling with a penchant for slick submissions – doesn’t require a huge amount of athleticism and means he’s still capable of thriving against all but a few opponents.

Is Burns amongst those few? It’s hard to say. The Brazilian emerged into the UFC back in 2014 with a stellar reputation as a world-class grappler, but despite only suffering 3 losses since, he hasn’t impressed as much as many would’ve hoped. Often he’s shelved his grappling in order to use his powerful but slightly rudimentary striking skills, and he’s never really dominated his opponents despite currently being on a 4-fight win streak.

An explosive fireplug of a 155lber, Burns has power in his punches and has looked improved on the feet recently, but it’s still on the ground where he truly excels. He’s got a lengthy resume in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world, winning gold medals in various world championships and taking a bronze in the prestigious Abu Dhabi grappling tournament in 2015.

The problem for him here is that Maia has traditionally eaten any grapplers that have faced him for breakfast – even highly credentialed ones like Gunnar Nelson, Jon Fitch, and Ben Askren. The only man to beat Maia while primarily grappling with him was Jake Shields, and that was a questionable win based largely on Shields’ ability to claim top position.

Outside of that, Maia’s losses all follow the same pattern – they came against powerful wrestlers who were able to keep the fight standing and do damage there while also using Maia’s failed takedown attempts to tire him out. In this fight though, for all of Burns’ athletic gifts, I’m not sure that he fits the same mold as someone like Usman or Woodley – he’s much more like a Nelson or Ryan LaFlare.

Can Maia finish Burns? Probably not; ‘Durinho’ has never been submitted and the likelihood of such a credentialed grappler being tapped – even by Maia – seems low, but unless father time has really caught up with the 42-year old to the point where his skills have diminished in the 5 months since the Askren fight, I don’t see any way he loses this one.

The Pick: Maia via unanimous decision


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Published 09 Mar 2020, 23:00 IST
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