It was announced on Thursday that emergency shoulder surgery had rendered Vitor Belfort (19-8) unfit to fight Anderson "The Spider" Silva (25-4) for the middleweight title at UFC 112. That sent the MMA world into a frenzy of speculation regarding his replacement. Today, UFC President Dana White has confirmed that, since Chael Sonnen (24-10-1) will not be able to train sufficiently due to a forehead gash sustained at UFC 109, the challenger will indeed be Demian Maia (12-1).
Maia, a superb grappler who opened his UFC tenure with five straight submission wins, is coming off a clear-cut decision victory over Dan Miller (11-3) at UFC 109. In that fight, Maia showcased improved striking, which was a necessary given Demian's twenty-one second KO loss to Nate Marquardt (29-9-2) at UFC 102. regardless of his improved stand-up, Demian Maia's one and only path to victory against "The Spider" is to use his top-notch submissions game to secure a tap-out from the long-reigning champ.
Here are Dana's White's thoughts on the match (Props: MMAJunkie.com):
"It's always tough when a top fighter like Vitor Belfort has to pull out of a big title fight, but we have found a high quality replacement...Top contender Chael Sonnen was not available due to injuries sustained in his fight with Nate Marquardt, so top-six middleweight Demian Maia will step in to fight for the title...Maia is an Abu Dhabi grappling champion, a five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, and he is 12-1 in MMA and coming off a win over Dan Miller at UFC 109. Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia will be a matchup between MMA's best striker and MMA's best grappler."
White is well known for being prone to hyperbole, characterizing this as a match-up between MMA's best striker and best grappler is definitely a justifiable statement. That being said, Silva's grappling is light-years ahead of Maia's striking, which could be the difference on April 1oth. A scrap with Belfort was guaranteed to produce fireworks for fans in Abu Dhabi, but this pairing at least offers the possibility of a lightning strike submission from Maia.
Full Rumoured Card for UFC 112:
Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia (For UFC Middleweight Championship)
BJ Penn vs. Frankie Edgar (For UFC Lightweight Championship)
Matt Hughes vs. Renzo Gracie
Kendall Grove vs. Mark Munoz
Terry Etim vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Rick Story vs. Nick Osipczak
Paul Taylor vs. John Gunderson
Paul Kelly vs. Matt Veach
DaMarques Johnson vs. TBA