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Maia says Usman may not beat Woodley at UFC 235, but will be champ ‘one day’

Demian Maia says Tyron Woodley deserves to be the favorite against Kamaru Usman at UFC 235, but has high hopes for the future of “The Nigerian Nightmare.”

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Two of Demian Maia’s last three losses came to the hands of UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and upcoming title challenger Kamaru Usman.

Woodley defends his 170-pound title for the fifth time against Usman in the co-main event of UFC 235, which takes place March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Woodley’s third title defense was against Maia in July 2017; he defeated the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace by lopsided decision.

Usman is coming off a one-sided win over former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, but before that, he defeated Maia in May 2018 — also by decision.

Maia returned to the winning column this past weekend with a first-round submission of Lyman Good at UFC Fortaleza. As someone who has fought both Woodley and Usman, Maia is ultimately siding with “The Chosen One” to retain his belt, but said it is a very close matchup on paper.

“It’s an extremely tough fight to call,” Maia said at a press conference in Fortaleza (via MMAjunkie). “To be coherent with what I’ve said, I believe that Woodley, for all that he’s shown, is a slight favorite. But I have a feeling, I don’t know why — I mean, I do know why, because I fought him — (Usman) is a very well-rounded guy. Aggressive at the right times, but he also knows how to apply the rules.”

That said, Maia said he expects Usman to hold the UFC welterweight title before hanging up his gloves in years to come.

“I think Usman will still be champion,” he predicted. “I don’t know if it’s now, or within one year, (but) I believe he will be champion some day.”