Posted 10/10/2013 by Marlene Taborda in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 29 Review

By Mike Fagan, October 10th, 2013 

When two great grapplers fight, you often hear things like, “This will either be a great grappling exhibition or really bad kickboxing for 15/25 minutes.” The idea being, for whatever reason, that because two guys are skilled on the floor, they’re going to work a Sakuraba/Newton homage, causing the live crowd to roar with delight, ushering in a new renaissance of grappling, and making Dana White’s eyes pop out of his sockets like a Looney Toons character.

The reality, though, is that two great grapplers might put on a fun grappling exhibition, a really bad kickboxing exchange, or a war of attrition in the clinch and on the mat. And that’s what we got last night with Jake Shields and Demian Maia. It was interesting if you train or watch sport BJJ for fun (ew, why?), but it’s death for the uninitiated. The crowd in Barueri didn’t seem to hate it so much as offer a collective “meh” and shrug of the shoulders, and that just about says it all.

-Shields blames his string of uninspired performances on the death of his father, who unexpectedly passed away two weeks before his fight with Jake Ellenberger. I’m sure the trauma effected his training and focus on fighting, but you have to go back to a 2009 fight against Robbie Lawler to find a Shields performance you can call “great.”

That’s not to say he hasn’t been impressive. He controlled Jason Miller for most of five rounds, save for a deep rear-naked choke at the end of the third round. He battled back to beat Dan Henderson, who dropped him hard in the first round. He’s only lost twice since 2004, and he makes the most out of a limited skill set.

The thing that can frustrate watching Shields is his opponents playing into his game. Both Martin Kampmann and Maia would have been better off keeping Shields vertical and forcing him to strike with them. Instead, both played with Shields on the floor and found themselves in grueling wars of attrition. You can give Maia some slack given his background, but great fighters make adjustments mid-fight, and Maia failed to do so.

-You have to assume that ends Maia’s hopes for another title shot in the UFC. He turns 36 in November. It’s feasible that he puts together a couple wins at welterweight (some combination of Matt Brown, Tarec Saffiedine, Robbie Lawler, and Martin Kampmann?), but that only helps him if the top of the division falls into a black hole.

We also saw Maia struggling in the fourth and fifth rounds against a guy who looked more winded than he was. He may be a better fighter than Shields and he may have deserved the decision, but his performance lost him ground in the title hunt, anyway.

-Speaking of guys losing out on challenging for titles, it’s Erick Silva! If someone asked you how old Silva was, you’d say, what, 26? 27? Maybe 28? Nope. He was 29.

That doesn’t disqualify him from having a solid UFC career, but at 29 with 20 pro fights under his belt, it’s unlikely we’ll see a broad enough change in his game to get him to that next level. Someone on Twitter suggested that he’ll end up as a welterweight Melvin Guillard, and I think that’s apt.

Guillard has the tools and athleticism to beat almost anyone on any given night, but his weaknesses (fighting on the floor, fight IQ) come back to bite him in the ass too often to make him a serious contender. Silva has similar tools (with better jiu-jitsu) and athleticism with less polish (Guillard is 30 years old with 46 fights), and a recklessness that gets him into trouble.

-Holy shit. DONGER.

-Lots of interesting fights for Dong Hyun Kim now. You could throw him in with the dirtiest player in the game, Rousimar Palhares. Shields might need a placeholder while the rest of the top ten sorts itself out. Jake Ellenberger needs a bounceback fight. Hell, Ben Askren might need a welcoming party, too.

-As for Palhares, good on the UFC for withholding a submission of the night bonus for “unsportsmanlike conduct.” But this is a pattern of behavior now, and it’s worth wondering whether additional discipline is necessary. Ariel Helwani made his one good point for the month when he wondered aloud on Twitter about the difference, if any, between holding onto a submission too long and throwing a punch after the bell. Dana White tossed Paul Daley out of the UFC for the latter, and this is now the second time Palhares has been officially sanctioned. (The New Jersey commission suspended him 90 days for holding on to a heel hook too long against Tomasz Drwal.)

-Matt Hamill said he had something left to prove. The only thing he proved last night is that he can (barely) make it fifteen minutes as live punching bag. It’s no wonder Duff Holmes refused to train him. In the last half of round three, referee Keith Peterson looked more than ready to step in and stop the bout as Hamill staggered and plodded around the cage with his hands at his knees and wobbling around like Mortal Kombat character waiting to get finished.

-And Thiago Silva couldn’t follow through. Coming in 2 pounds overweight, Silva needed a dominant performance to make up for things. He looked dominant only in the sense that Hamill looked so bad. That he couldn’t finish a guy who was literally* asking for it means he’ll be kept on Pink Slip Watch for his next fight or two.

* – Not literally.


Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at, also available as a podcast via iTunes.




Marlene Taborda