In 2010, Demian Maia and Jake Shields were seemingly at the height of their respective careers. Maia was an elite middleweight who fought (unsuccessfully) for the title against Anderson Silva, while Shields defeated Dan Henderson in April to defend the Strikeforce middleweight title. The hope was that those two grapplers would one day meet in the UFC, and now with both men full-time at welterweight, we will get to see it after all. As Ariel Helwani reported on UFC Tonight, the two sides have verbally agreed to fight each other, with a date and location to be determined later:
As reported on @ufctonight, UFC is working towards pitting Maia vs. Shields. No date/location set yet, but both sides have agreed.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 31, 2013
Maia (18-4) has been on an absolute tear at welterweight, with wins over Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story, and Jon Fitch. He was scheduled to fight Josh Koscheck at UFC 163, but was removed from the card when Koscheck got hurt and the UFC couldn't find a replacement opponent.
Shields (28-6-1) won a scintillating, instant classic split decision over Tyron Woodley at the enormously successful UFC 161 in Winnipeg. That was his first fight after a six-month suspension for a positive drug test after his UFC 150 win over Ed Herman (at middleweight). The former #1 contender at welterweight also won a unanimous decision over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144, making him 2-0 in the division since the knockout loss to Jake Ellenberger in 2011.
After the lackluster fight between Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, this is a great opportunity for Maia to further advance his claim for a title shot ahead of both men. For Shields, he could conceivably revitalize his career with a win over Maia and return to the top 10.