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UFC Fight Night: Toe to Toe Preview - A complete breakdown of Demian Maia vs. Ryan LaFlare

Phil and David talk about everything you need to know about Demian Maia vs. Ryan LaFlare, and everything you don't about Swedish Rock and Psychadelic Rap for UFN 62 in Brazil.

Phil MacKenzie

Demian Maia fights Ryan LaFlare in the welterweight main event of UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. LaFlare on March 21, 2015 at the Ginásio do Maracanãzinho in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One-sentence summary?

The well-travelled submission wizard takes on some undefeated wrestler guy.


The wrestling future of welterweight meets the grappling past of middleweight.


Demian Maia
Odds: +125

Ryan LaFlare
Odds: -128

History lesson / introduction to the fighters

Phil: Demian Maia was the submission specialist who made his way to a title fight with Anderson Silva. That didn't go so good, and after some time floating around the ranks, he dropped to welterweight, and briefly reinvigorated his career, until his momentum was halted by the mighty Jake Shields and subsequently Rory MacDonald. He won a stay-busy fight over Alexander Yakovlev and then had an incredibly gnarly staph infection which kept him sidelined.

David: Maia has led the exact kind of career you expect from an aging grappling specialist with the massive caveat being that he earned himself a title shot. I don't see much else to add about Maia's resume. He was very much an overachiever early on in his career, and now he's a modest underachiever.

Phil: Ryan LaFlare is the most under-the-rader undefeated fighter in the UFC. There's a reason for that. He's just kind of... a guy. His finishing ability on the regionals has vanished against even the lowest rung of UFC competition. Who is he? What does he do? My personal assumption is that he lives nestled inside Patrick Cummins like they're a Matryoshka doll of underrated old prospects, and he only comes out when it's time to fight welterweights. A crazy theory? Perhaps. But have YOU ever seen him and Cummins in the same room at the same time?

David: Good point. I prefer to think of LaFlare as the Kuato to Cummins' Marshall Bell. LaFlare's early start reminds me of Jon Fitch; similar in spirit, although LaFlare tends to be much more violent, even though the results don't speak to this element of his game. Fitch was a lot like this early on; just some dude winning fights.

What are the stakes?

David: Rankings, pink slips, bla bla bla. I'd rather just talk about what we're listening to right now. I can't get enough of Graveyeard's Hisingen Blues. Between that song, which enhances my normally pathetic exercise effort, and John Klingberg leading the league in rookie defenseman scoring on my Dallas Stars, Sweden is currently the most important place in the world to me.

Phil: That is awesome, and not what I expect from Nuclear Blast Records? Although my experience is admittedly mostly limited to Meshuggah. At the moment I am listening to Sumac (Isis spin-off) and the new Death Grips record- essentially a rap group who sound like a hobo being drowned in electronic hell in case you're unfamiliar. Good to know that the Swedes are redeeming themselves for their performance at the Stockholm card, though.

Anyway, just to do our due diligence, the winner of this fight confirms a place somewhere in the top 10. If Maia wins boringly he'll cement himself as something close to the welterweight division's Tibau, if he wins excitingly he'll get a solid semi-marquee matchup. LaFlare could catapult himself up the ranks with an exciting performance, but he's not likely to do that.

David: Between your theory on LaFlare, and your interest in what sounds like psychadelic rap, I'm starting to suspect you're the spawn of Timothy Leary.

Where do they want it?

Phil: Maia wants to take it to the ground where he can submit LaFlare. Razor-edged insight, I know. The main thing, though, is that unlike many wrestler-vs-BJJ guy matches... he actually can. There's a reflexive tendency to assume that a high-level wrestler is just going to command the grappling, but LaFlare's takedown defense is actually pretty porous.

This means the early going may well be be pretty rough for LaFlare. Maia has beaten up, controlled and tapped some great fighters when he's gotten his hands on them. However, and increasingly in recent years, he's struggled to keep his workrate up.

His distance striking is particularly woeful, though and this is where LaFlare can really capitalize. He's very smooth at range, and his really notable ability is his skill at blending together kicks, punches and a variety of takedowns whilst maintaining a high work-rate. In this way, his striking kind of resembles a far less dynamic TJ Dillashaw.

David: I think Maia is pretty underrated on the feet. He never really establishes a rhythm on the feet, which is his major problem. Nor does he diligently work on phase shifting. But he's actually got some pop to his left hand in particular. He's no longer deceptively strong if his choke/cargo loader squeeze on Rick Story was any indication. He's just flat out strong.

LaFlare is fine in the clinch, and he'll have the advantage at range, especially with his kicks. But like you mentioned, the real kicker in this bout will be illustrated in the first round. If Maia can operate fast enough on the ground, he can make this one look easy despite this being a pure attrition war on paper. I just don't expect it. LaFlare is athletic enough to make the most of the scrambles, even though he'll find himself on his back eventually. That's the only problem with this fight; if it turns into a kickboxing match, it won't be fun. Ryan stays active on the feet, but Maia has always been pretty good defensively, Marquardt KO be damned. He has a good sense of distance despite the lack of pitch mechanics.

Insight from past fights?

Phil: Maia put an absolute beating on Rory MacDonald in the first round, but once the young Canadian started the second, he was able to unload with kicks. If Maia gets stranded at range, expect LaFlare to light him up, and then maybe take down, stand up, repeat.

David: I've always appreciated Maia for being a grappler who is well rounded within his own universe. A lot of guys only excel within top control. Very few are specialized elsewhere, but Maia is still dangerous from his back. I think grapplers tend to concede the lack of opportunity on the bottom too quickly. The perception is that it doesn't work anymore, which is more than nominally true. Yet it's no reason to shut out that aspect of grappling completely, and Maia is one of the few guys who isn't immediately looking to scramble out, sweep, or accept defeat. Both are flawed yet dynamic enough for this bout to be contested on the ground, which favors Maia.


Phil: Maia is coming up on 38 years old, and had a brutal staph infection which sank all the way to his clavicle. His physicality looked to be on the wane before his lay-off, so I don't think it's unreasonable that he might just look completely different, and not in a good way.

David: It's important to note that LaFlare himself has been sidelined even longer than Maia. LaFlare's injury doesn't compare much to Maia's but it's worth noting.


Phil: I really expect Maia to win the first round. He might finish, as LaFlare is perhaps over-confident in his own scrambling ability to get himself out of trouble, but I seriously doubt Maia's ability to win 25 minutes against a younger, better athlete who should have huge advantages at range. Anyone who's a bettor, I'd stick with Maia sub inside the first two rounds, or LaFlare decision. Mainly the second. Ryan LaFlare by unanimous decision.

David: I still tend to favor Maia for the early ground exchanges. LaFlare is not quite explosive enough to send Maia packing early, and even though Maia's output wanes, he's far more durable than he's given credit for, having only been finished once. Demian Maia by Decision.