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No secret to his success

Undefeated Demian Maia to rely on same gameplan as always

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Courtesy of UFC

Demian Maia works on a first round submission on Nate Quarry during their UFC middleweight contest in Las Vegas in November, 2008.

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Mixed martial arts fighter Demian Maia, right, talks to reporters during a recent workout at the Xtreme Couture gym in preparation for his UFC 91 match against Nate Quarry Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Demian Maia may face the biggest challenge to his Jiu-Jitsu skills of UFC career when he squares off against Nate Marquardt at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore., Saturday night.

Marquardt, after all, did reach the level of black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2004.

Even so, Maia believes there’s a difference between his opponent’s knowledge of the mixed martial art and his own.

“He’s a good Jiu-Jitsu fighter, but he didn’t compete in it like I did,” said Maia, who spent years competing in grappling tournaments before switching to MMA in 2005. “I have good wrestling, but I can’t compare it with Dan Henderson who has been wrestling his whole life. It’s the same thing. (Marquardt) has enough to avoid my game and that’s what he needs to do.”

Even within an elite organization featuring the best fighters in the world, Maia has seemingly separated himself as an expert among experts in Jiu-Jitsu.

If he had any desire to keep that strength a secret, he’s done a terrible job. Maia has submitted every fighter he’s faced in the UFC and won the “Submission of the Night” award four times.

“There’s no secret what’s going to happen in this fight,” UFC President Dana White said. “Marquardt is going to want to stand up and Demian Maia is going to want to go to the ground. That’s the classic striker versus grappler.”

In a sport that relishes the knockout, Maia is making quite a bit of noise as a pure grappler in the UFC middleweight division. Defeating Marquardt could end up being the last step in Maia’s journey toward Anderson Silva.

It wasn’t too long ago that another Brazilian grappler was in line for a shot at Silva, and that one didn’t end too well.

Thales Leites tried, unsuccessfully, to bait Silva to the canvas by purposefully falling down for five straight rounds in their title fight in April. That performance put him on a path that ended with his dismissal from the UFC earlier this month.

While Maia acknowledged that he is similar to Leites in some ways, he’s not worried that his career has been impacted at all by what happened.

“My style is much different than Thales’ style,” he said. “You can’t compare striking guys. Wanderlei Silva is different from Anderson Silva who is different from Georges St. Pierre. It’s the same thing on the ground; my grappling has nothing to do with Thales.

“I think if I keep showing good fights, people will want to see me. I’m very happy with the fans. I think they like it when I fight and if I put on a good show, they will want to see me fighting for a title.”

It certainly seems that Maia would be ready for that opportunity with a win over a quality fighter like Marquardt.

Marquardt has already fought for the UFC middleweight championship, losing by TKO in the first round to Silva in 2007.

Since then, he’s finished three of his last four fights and is regarded as one of the most well-balanced fighters in the division.

That could present a challenge to Maia, whose game plan is about one thing only — taking the fight to the ground.

“He’s just a Jiu-Jitsu guy, and the only way I see Demian getting Nate to the ground is pulling his guard, his takedowns aren’t that good,” said Trevor Wittman, Marquardt’s boxing coach. “His striking may be better; we figure he’s working on that. But I just think that Nate is better in all areas.”

Some believed that Maia would have trouble getting two-time National Champion wrestler Chael Sonnen to the ground in his last fight at UFC 95. Maia responded by submitting Sonnen a mere 2:37 into the first round.

He expects this weekend to be no different.

“I think the fight is going to the ground somehow at some point,” Maia said. “His Jiu-Jitsu is just good enough to avoid my game and that’s what he needs to do. I am confident that I can win if I get him to the ground.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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