Matches to Make After UFC Rio

By Brian Knapp Mar 22, 2015
Demian Maia did what he does best, and Ryan LaFlare was powerless to stop it.

The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist repeatedly grounded and mounted LaFlare, paving his way to a unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night “Maia vs. LaFlare” main event on Saturday at Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro. Maia was awarded 48-46 scores from all three judges, weathering a fifth-round point deduction referee John McCarthy administered for stalling.

LaFlare could not stay on his feet. Per preliminary FightMetric figures, Maia executed five takedowns and passed the former Ring of Combat champion’s guard a whopping 14 times in their 25-minute encounter. The 37-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt nearly finished it with a mounted arm-triangle choke in the fourth round before being forced to overcome fatigue in the fifth and settling for a decision.

In wake of UFC Fight Night “Maia vs. LaFlare,” here are six matches that ought to be considered:

Related » UFC Rio By the Numbers

Demian Maia vs. Dong Hyun Kim-Josh Burkman winner: While his days as a top-shelf threat in the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division may be over, Maia still has plenty to offer. He was in vintage form against LaFlare for 20 minutes, as he dragged the Blackzilians representative to the mat, sliced through his guard and threatened with submissions while applying his suffocating top game. Maia has recorded back-to-back victories for the first time since winning three straight between July 7, 2012 and Feb. 2, 2013. Kim -- who has unfinished business with Maia -- will take on Burkman at UFC 187 on May 23.

Erick Silva vs. Jake Ellenberger: The uber-talented but enigmatic Silva took care of a shopworn Josh Koscheck with a guillotine choke 4:21 into the first round of their welterweight co-headliner. Originally scheduled to face Ben Saunders, the former Jungle Fight champion adjusted to the change in opponent without issue, rattling Koscheck with punches before dropping the guillotine on the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler. Silva has rebounded nicely from his ill-fated encounter with Matt Brown in May, delivering consecutive first-round finishes. Ellenberger victimized Koscheck with a north-south choke at UFC 184 in February.

Ryan LaFlare vs. Brandon Thatch: LaFlare experienced defeat for the first time in his 12-fight career in bowing to the aforementioned Maia. He yielded five takedowns against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace and was under constant duress on the ground, his performance raising real questions regarding his ceiling in the welterweight division. Since arriving in the UFC in 2013, LaFlare had run through John Howard, Court McGee, Santiago Ponzinibbio and Ben Alloway while losing only two of 12 total rounds, but Maia proved to be a different animal entirely. Thatch finds himself in a similar position as a fallen prospect, having submitted to Benson Henderson at a UFC Fight Night event on Valentine’s Day.

Leonardo Santos vs. Michael Chiesa-Mitch Clarke winner: Unbeaten over his last nine outings, Santos dispatched Tony Martin with a second-round rear-naked choke in their featured lightweight clash. “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” Season 2 winner and Nova Uniao product overcame a slow start to ground Martin in the second round, where he climbed to mount, forced the American to surrender his back and cinched the choke. Santos, 35, has not lost a fight in nearly five years. Chiesa will tangle with Clarke at UFC Fight Night “Mendes vs. Lamas” on April 4 in Fairfax, Va.

Amanda Nunes vs. Marion Reneau: Nunes bounced back from her UFC 178 loss to eventual title challenger Cat Zingano with a near-flawless performance against Shayna Baszler. The American Top Team standout had Baszler reeling with a body kick, walked her towards the fence and then buckled her with a wicked leg kick. “The Queen of Spades” dropped where she stood, clutching her knee in obvious pain and forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to intervene on her behalf. Nunes has finished all 10 of her wins, eight of them inside the first round. Reneau has emerged as one of the top women’s bantamweights in the sport. Her five-fight winning streak includes UFC victories over Jessica Andrade and Alexis Dufresne.

Godofredo Castro vs. Doo Ho Choi: Castro thrives on high-risk, high-reward offense. The 27-year-old Brazilian submitted Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili with a flying triangle choke 3:14 into their brief but entertaining featherweight confrontation. His future in the UFC once uncertain after he suffered three defeats in his first four Octagon appearances, Castro has righted his ship with three straight first-round stoppages and seems poised to make a move on the 145-pound ladder. Choi arrived in the UFC to much fanfare, and he did not disappoint. The South Korean prospect wrecked Juan Manuel Puig in just 18 seconds at UFC Fight Night “Edgar vs. Swanson” in November. Choi, 23, has won 10 fights in a row.


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