In my latest article for CBSSports.com, I take a look at eight fighters that I believe will break out in 2008. At the top of the list is UFC middleweight Demian Maia:
Demian Maia: There are plenty of good pure grapplers in the UFC such as Roan Carneiro, Tony DeSouza, B.J. Penn, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ricardo Almeida, Alberto Crane, Mark Bocek and others. But there are many pundits who consider Maia to be the best currently on the UFC roster. He even won the illustrious Abu Dhabi grappling championships that were held in Trenton, N.J., this past summer, beating Yushin Okami in the 77-87-kilogram final.
While Marcelo Garcia is a prime example of how a strong grappling background is not a guarantee at success in MMA, Maia has begun his pro career with a 6-0 record. He was successful in his UFC debut at UFC 77 this past October, submitting Ryan Jensen with a rear naked choke at just 2:40 into Round 1.
There are still plenty of questions that need to be answered about Maia’s standup game, but he’s one of the brightest prospects in the UFC’s thinnest division. Maia not only has the talent but has the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the middleweights, a rise he’s likely to make in 2008.
In order to see who else made the list, just click here.