The next step has been laid in Demian Maia's quest for a welterweight title shot. The phenom-grappler, and former middleweight title contender, is scheduled to face Josh Koscheck at UFC 163 in August. The bout, which was first mentioned by Brazilian site News MMA earlier in the week, was confirmed by MMA Fighting. While some may see this as a wasted fight for Maia it has the potential to provide real clarity to a murky top-ten at welterweight.
Since dropping weight last July Maia has been on a tear, with dominant victories over Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story, and Jon Fitch. Despite his success, his place in the division is still a little unclear. With Fitch released and Kim and Story both near, but not quite in, the top ten of the division, Maia feels somewhat still in need of validation. Enter Josh Koscheck.
Koscheck's stock has plummeted over the last few months, with back to back losses to Johny Hendricks (a close one) and to Robbie Lawler (a not so close one), but he is still a name fighter. His ability to sell a fight should give Maia a nice rivalry to build off over the summer, and a fourth straight victory over a top fighter would put Demian undeniably amongst the division's elite (and Koscheck undeniably out of the elite). That's not to say that a win is a totally foregone conclusion. While Josh may have been KO'd in his last fight, it's not likely a performance that Maia can replicate. So this will be left to a battle of grapplers with Maia's BJJ pitted against Koscheck's wrestling.
Unfortunately, in that regard, this is something we've seen before. Maia is coming off three dominant victories over three fighters who excel in the clinch, so unless Koscheck can find something that those fighters couldn't it's hard not to see this going the same way. While it's a test we've already seen Maia pass, it's also a big name fight for both men that could get Maia much closer to a shot at the belt without knocking off any of the current crop of contenders.
UFC 163 will be headlined by Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis for the featherweight championship. It takes place on August 3rd in Rio de Janeiro. Look for the card to start filling up in the coming months.