I must admit, I was openly skeptical about Demian Maia's move to 170. My general belief was that Maia (at the time of his ugly loss to Chris Weidman) was 34 years old, and his athletic ability was slowly declining primarily due to age. Some fighters "age" quickly, others are like Anderson Silva, who at 37 looks like he could knockout anyone he wants until he's 65. I wasn't sure that a welterweight drop was the sole solution to his problems.
Boy was I ever wrong and I will gladly eat that crow right now. Heh ... this crow tastes like chicken. Maia's move to welterweight has paid massive dividends, and his total domination of Jon Fitch at UFC 156 cemented his status as a new contender in the division. We already knew his grappling skills were a cut above the rest, but his very good wrestling and strength returned to old form. He was the Demian Maia who lateral-dropped Chael Sonnen right into full mount, took back-control for fun, and sunk in air-tight chokes that led him towards a middleweight title shot.
That he beat Fitch isn't completely surprising, but not only did he outwrestle and outgrapple Fitch with consummate ease, but towards the midway point of the 3rd round it looked like Jon Fitch was actually gassed. Maia kept a relentless, pressuring attack that Fitch was completely unable to adjust to.
Maia has not even been remotely CHALLENGED in 3 welterweight fights. While the Dong Hyun Kim win was a tad on the fluke side with Stun Gun's rib injury, Maia was already in full-mount at the time the injury occurred, and he was in massive trouble just on that alone. He was the first man to finish Rick Story, squeezing his neck like an orange until blood came pouring out of his nose. The comprehensive bell-to-bell beating of Jon Fitch is something only the greatest WW of all-time, Georges St. Pierre, has ever done.
Is he going to get a title shot following such an impressive win? That's unlikely with the way UFC 158 is set up. And honestly, there is one shred of doubt that Maia still needs to erase before he can possible compete against GSP. Maia's last title run at 185 took a step back when Nate Marquardt knocked him out cold in 20 seconds. Granted, Maia's chin is not terrible and that was just a perfect shot by Nate, but it's still a task for him to accomplish in his next fight. He needs to fight someone, preferably a wrestler, who will display great takedown defense and pose a legitimate threat on the feet. Stun Gun and Fitch have zero history of powerful stand-up ... ditto Rick Story. That would mean taking on someone like Jake Ellenberger, Johny Hendricks, or even the admittedly out-of-contention Josh Koscheck. If he can pass that test, it's title shot time.
Regardless of what happens to Maia as far as his title aspirations, his welterweight career is unquestionably a success after last night, and I personally find it fantastic that he is able to return to the 2007-2009 era Maia who wowed MMA fans with his masterful grappling and wrestling skills.