Two and a half weeks removed from one of the greatest fights in MMA history, the Ultimate Fighting Championship heads to Barueri, Brazil for UFC Fight Night 29. While no hardware is one the line for this event, there are a number of pivotal matchups in both the welterweight and flyweight divisions. Jordan Cieciwa is off this week for this article (probably still upset over fellow Winnipeg native Louis Fisette being ousted from the Ultimate Fighter last week) so I'm riding solo. As always you shoot me a tweet on Twitter @LynchOnSports if you agree or disagree. As well feel free as well to leave your opinions in the comment section below.
Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields
A pair of ground specialists clash in the main event, as the Brazilian Maia battles Cesar Gracie student Shields. This match is intriguing because both fighters have been headed in opposite directions as of late. Back in 2010, Shields was considered a prized acquisition from the now defunct Strikeforce organization and after just one fight in the UFC (albeit a controversial decision win over Martin Kampmann at UFC 121), fought for the welterweight title against Georges St Pierre at UFC 129.
Fast forward to today, the 34-year old has racked up a 2-2-1 record since his UFC debut, which included a first round knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger and a failed drug test against Ed Herman (Which caused that bout to be overturned).
Even in his last victory over Tyron Woodley, UFC President Dana White was not impressed, going on his Twitter post-fight and writing “Woodley GOT Robbed!!!”
The 35-year old Maia meanwhile has looked very impressive since his drop to welterweight, going a perfect 3-0 and dispatching the likes of Dong-Hyun Kim, Rick Story and Jon Fitch.
The question is how will this fight play out?
Both are well versed on the mat, with the edge going to Maia being a fourth degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Shields arguably has better standup and may want to keep the fight on the feet if he's worried about the Maia's submission game.
While many pundits are claiming this is 35-year-old's fight to lose, I think we'll see very hungry and desperate Shields, as he potentially faces unemployment.
The former Strikeforce Middleweight champion should use his underrated wrestling to control the fight and dictate the pace, something that Maia hasn't been accustom to in his last three fights.
Expect Shields to pull off the upset and prove critics wrong yet again.
Shields via unanimous decision
Erick Silva vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Another intriguing welterweight matchup serves as the nights co-feature as Team Nogueira fighter Silva battles Korean standout Kim.
After a string of first round finishes starting off his UFC career, the hype train came to a halt for the 29-year old Silva when he lost to Jon Fitch back at UFC 153. A lack of conditioning and wrestling in that unanimous decision loss proved to be the biggest detriments to “Jungle Boy” losing that fight. He bounced back in his last contest dispatching Jason High back in June with a first round submission at UFC on FUEL 10.
Kim meanwhile is on a two-fight winning streak, successfully using his clinch game to control his opponents in both those unanimous decision victories. What's interesting is Kim has never tapped out during his 21-fight career, while Silva boasts nine submission victories on his resume.
Could we see a first for the Busan Team M.A.D member Kim?
It's unlikely for a number of reasons. For starters the 31-year old Kim is one of the biggest fighters in the welterweight division and holds a three inch height and reach advantage over the Brazilian. He also possesses exceptional judo, being a fourth degree black belt.
Much like the main event, we should see another upset and a fight playing out similarly to what Fitch imposed in his victory over Silva, controlling the Brazilian over three rounds for the decision win.
Kim via unanimous decision
Thiago Silva vs. Matt Hamill
Two 205lb fighters go to war in a wide open Light Heavyweight division, as the Brazilian Silva takes on Ultimate Fighter 3 contestant Hamill.
After a string of failed drug tests, the Blackzillians member Silva finally got back on the winning track at UFC on FUEL 10, knocking out former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante.
Hamill meanwhile came out his 2011 retirement (after losing to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133) to defeat Canadian Roger Hollett at UFC 152. While the 36-year old Hamill does have the superior wrestling which could threaten Brazilian, Silva is just too good in all other areas.
A combination of being a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and possessing some of the most devastating knockout power in the division, the fight doesn't bode well for the Ohio native.
Expect Sao Carlos native to find his range sometime in the second round and knockout “The Hammer”
Silva via second round knockout.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Joey Beltran
In a contest that has “Fight Of The Night” honors written all over it, 33-year old Maldonado takes on “The Mexicutioner” Beltran. With 23-knockouts between the two of them, it's no secret this will be a standup affair, but the question becomes who will get the better of the exchanges?
Despite losing to Glover Teixeira last October, the Brazilian showed that he's extremely durable in that fight and that should serve him well in this bout. You should see Maldonado display more technical boxing than his foe and connect on his chin sometime in the second round for the knockout win.
Maldonado via second round TKO
Rousimar Palhares vs. Mike Pierce
After back to back losses against Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard, the Brazilian Palhares makes his welterweight debut against Mike Pierce. Physically these two fighters are identical in height and reach, but stylistically the ADCC silver medalist is far superior on the mat. Pierce is a former NCAA Division I wrestler and that should serve him well if he's able to keep Palhares against the cage and off the ground.
It will be interesting to see how the weight cut affects the 33-year old as well, who at times was bullied in the middleweight division because of his size. Because Pierce is on a four-fight win streak and doesn't have to deal with a first time weight cut, I give him the nod over three rounds to take home a decision.
Pierce via unanimous decision
Raphael Assuncao vs. T.J. Dillashaw
In what arguably is the most competitive matchup on the main card, 31-year old Assuncao goes to war with former NCAA Division I wrestler Dillashaw. Expect the Brazilian Assuncao to immediately try and take his American foe on the ground early on, as he boasts nine submission victories.
For the TUF 14 runner up, it's another chance to display his much improved striking, thanks to the addition of striking coach Duane Ludwig. Both fighters are on four-fight win streaks and could easily emerge as the next title challenger to current interim champion Renan Barao. Expect Dillishaw to use his wrestling and superior standup to earn himself a decision and a shot at the bantamweight title.
Dillashaw via unanimous decision
Undercard Picks: Dias, Alcantara, Cabral, Cariaso, Whiteley
Also be sure to tune into the “Weigh-In” on TSN Radio 1290 Winnipeg every Saturday as myself, Jordan and Big Marv Timog go toe to toe discussing the hottest topics in MMA.