But where is the value in the UFC odds in this epic showdown?
Demian Maia (18-4, 3 KO's, 9 Subs)
I'm not sure people realize just how accomplished Demian Maia is in the realm of world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He is a 4th degree BJJ master with more grand championships and accomplishments than there is room to list. However in the world of MMA Maia is considered an elite gatekeeper as opposed to a legitimate title threat.
But that may have all changed since he decided to abandon the middleweight division and drop down to a more palatable welterweight class. Since he took the step to 170 pounds, Maia has rung up three consecutive victories his backers' UFC picks and over stout competition. He TKO'ed world class judo master Dong Hyun Kim in round one and then polished off Rick Story in the opening round of their fight with a neck crank leading to a submission.
Maia's last trip inside the Octagon was a unanimous decision victory over former contender Jon Fitch which paved the way for Fitch's ticket out of the organization. Maia won't have it as easy against another elite grappler in Jake Shields but this fight should play out on the canvas which is where both fighters make their living.
Jake Shields (28-6, 3 KO's, 10 Subs)
Jake Shields went almost seven years between losses and during that span he became the king of the Elite XC and Strikeforce middleweight divisions. His reign of terror continued in his UFC debut when he dropped down to 170 pounds and eked out a split decision over top contender Martin Kampmann. But a date with UFC welterweight champ George St. Pierre spelled doom.
Shields fell to GSP at UFC 129 via unanimous decision and then got rocked less than five months later when Jake Ellenberger polished him off in 53 seconds of the first round. It was only the second time in his storied career that he had been stopped but he dusted himself off and secured his first victory of 2012 with a unanimous decision over Yoshirhiro Akiyama - or just plain old Sexyama to his legions of fans. Shields then explored a fight in the middleweight division against a UFC veteran in Ed Herman. It appeared as though Shields would add another W on his resume until a post-fight drug test came up dirty and the decision was ruled a NO Contest.
Shields was hit with a six-month suspension for his failed drug test but came back to score a split decision victory over Tyron Woodley at UFC 161.
It appears as though Shields may have climbed to the premier MMA organization at a time when age is now becoming a factor. Ed Herman noted that Shields looked like he was puffed up, an obvious sign of PED use, in their fight that eventually led to Shields' suspension though the exact nature of the illegal substance was not disclosed.
As good as Shields is on the mat there is virtually no one on the planet that can grapple as well as Maia. Neither fighter has any knockout power to speak of and this will probably become a tactical chess match on the ground that will have all but the most rabid grappling fans yawning and making frequent trips to the refrigerator.
I look for this to be five rounds of mounts, half guards and plenty of wriggling. Though Shields may possess greater power, Maia is more than capable of combating that advantage through superior technique. As we peruse the UFC betting lines, I am looking for Maia to ultimately fend off Shields by copping a unanimous decision and moving one step closer to another title shot.
Free UFC Picks: Play Maia at Bet365.com.
Don't forget to check out my UFC article on Teixeira vs. Bader~