Editor’s note: UFC 156 takes place on Saturday, February 2 and begins at 7 PM on Pay-Per-View.
Of all the training camps in Northern California, one of the most respected and deepest is San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy. And one of their best fighters is on a comeback trail, which hits another gear at UFC 156.
Welterweight Jon Fitch will continue his comeback trail towards title contention as he takes on Demian Maia, who is making his third appearance as a welterweight and has defeated Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story, both in the first round.
After a seven second KO loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141, Fitch has been out to prove that he can still be a dangerous fighter. That took precedent at UFC 153 after he defeated the much-hyped Erick Silva, who had not been past the first-round in the UFC, via unanimous decision. It was a dominant showing by Fitch, who showcased a much more well-rounded skill set that had not been seen in previous bouts.
Maia on the other hand has been a completely different fighter since moving down a weight class. His victories over Kim and Story took a total of 3:17 and showed how dedicated and focused Maia has been since the weight drop.
This is a perfect bout for each fighter looking to gain a foothold in the deep welterweight division. With several viable title contenders waiting in the wings, Fitch and Maia could easily join the clutter with a win, especially Maia who is going for his third-straight win.
It is an even bout with both fighters relying on a strong ground game. Maia is a 4th degree BJJ black belt and Fitch wrestled at Purdue and is a black belt in guerilla jiu-jitsu. This bout could easily be a grappling match for three rounds, however neither has been against throwing strikes. Fitch has five knockout wins and Maia has three.
Coming off his impressive victory over Silva, Fitch can get his first winning streak since a five-fight win streak that went from Jan. 2009 until Aug. 2010. The AKA welterweight has a great foundation to build on with the Silva victory, but whether or not he can add to it will be the question.
With several big name fighters contending for title contention and Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre set to defend his title on March 16 against Nick Diaz, the division could be set for a shake-up. Expect Maia and/or Fitch to be a part of it.
Nitesh Dutt is a Production Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.