Demian Maia (right) trains with heavyweight contender Junior dos Santos. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso


Demian Maia will take on former Sengoku Raiden Championship middleweight titleholder Jorge Santiago at UFC 136 “Edgar vs. Maynard 3” on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston, and the outcome figures to have a significant impact on both men.

Santiago was on the wrong end of a second-round technical knockout against Brian Stann at UFC 130 in May, and Maia lost a unanimous decision to Mark Munoz at UFC 131 in June. Maia left no stone unturned, as he trained alongside current heavyweight contender Junior dos Santos and under famed boxing coach Luis Dorea.

“I’ve had such a great camp for this fight,” Maia told Sherdog.com. “I’ve prepared myself to face Santiago, who is a complete fighter with standup skills and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. This guy is a [former] Sengoku champion and deserves a lot of respect. Strategy will make the difference in the fight.”

The Brazilians will collide as part of the UFC 136 prelims package that will air on Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m.PT. Once their business concludes, Maia and Santiago will have an interest in the featured middleweight duel between former title contender Chael Sonnen and the surging Stann, with the winner likely securing a crack at champion Anderson Silva. Maia, who has already lost to Silva and defeated Sonnen, sees Stann as the favorite.

“It’s difficult to say who the number two guy is in the division now,” he said. “Sonnen has a lack of rhythm [after not fighting for more than a year], while Stann, Munoz and Vitor Belfort are all fighting for that spot. Stann-Sonnen will be a tough fight, but Stann is on a roll. He’ll try to defend takedowns and exchange on his feet. Chael hasn’t fought in a while, so I’m betting on Stann.”

Sonnen’s verbal assaults on Brazil and Brazilians was first countered when Maia appeared on a television show saying he would be glad to teach the submissions-challenged Team Quest representative some jiu-jitsu and triangle defenses. In advance of UFC 136, Maia decided to take the edge off of some of the trash talk. He compared Sonnen’s to those of current Jungle Fight promoter and UFC veteran Wallid Ismail.

“When I said what I said [about the triangle defense classes], I was joking, but people took it seriously,” Maia said. “[Sonnen] has always treated me well, and we’ve never had any kind of problem or feud. Sonnen does his marketing like Wallid did during his fighting days -- by talking a lot.”

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