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Shields upsets Maia in Brazil

ESPN staff
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Jake Shields came out on top against Demian Maia in their welterweight bout © Getty Images
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As complex as the ground battle was between grappling specialists Demian Maia and Jake Shields, the final result came down to one thing: Who was on top?

Shields (29-6-1) scored an upset split decision over Maia on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 29 inside the Jose Correa Gymnasium in Sao Paulo. Two judges scored the five-round contest 48-47 for Shields. The third saw it 48-47 for Maia.

Many anticipated heavy grappling exchanges in the 170-pound main event. The two fighters obliged, for the most part, going back and forth in what basically turned into a grueling position battle.

Ultimately, it was Shields who controlled that battle more. While some would certainly say Maia (18-5) still boasts the more dangerous submission game, Shields neutralised it over the course of the fight by consistently working to top position.

"That was one of the hardest two or three fights of all time [in my career]," Shields said. "It ranks up with [Georges St-Pierre] and [Dan Henderson]. [Maia] is a phenom. I expected that going in. He gave me all I could handle. I'm thankful I got the win."

Maia, who saw a three-fight winning streak snapped, got off to a strong start. He quickly took the centre of the cage, shot in and secured the fight's first takedown from a bodylock. After Shields worked to his feet, Maia jumped on his back during the scramble but eventually lost position and wound up on his back.

What happened next proved to be Maia's downfall - nothing really. Playing conservatively, Shields rarely looked to pass Maia's guard but remained active enough with short elbows to prevent a stand-up by referee Marc Goddard.

Shields' confidence grew as the fight hit the second and third rounds. He was successful working out of Maia's guard again in Round Two and executed a nifty reversal into top position in Round Three when Maia threatened to take his back.

Maia began to defend the takedown better in the fourth, as the pace of the fight seemed to catch up on Shields. That carried over into the fifth as well as Maia, possibly sensing he was down on the scorecards, let his hands go more.

Shields hung on to record his second consecutive win. He defeated Tyron Woodley at UFC 161 in June, also via split decision. A former middleweight titleholder in Strikeforce, Shields would be on a four-fight win streak, but a decision over Ed Herman in August 2012 was overturned to a no-contest after Shields failed a drug test.

Maia suffered his first loss since dropping to the UFC's middleweight division early last year.

Rousimar Palhares submitted Mike Pierce in 31 seconds © Getty Images
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Earlier in the night in a back-and-forth welterweight affair, Kim Dong-Hyun (18-2-1) knocked Erick Silva out cold with a straight left 3:01 into the second round.

Thiago Silva (16-3) did enough to earn a unanimous decision over Matt Hamill in their light heavyweight contest for his second consecutive win, but it wasn't pretty. Both veterans were completely exhausted by the final bell, with referee Keith Peterson paying close attention specifically to Hamill.

Fabio Maldonado has won back-to-back UFC fights for the first time in his career following a split decision nod over Joey Beltran. Fighting in his hometown of Sao Paulo, Maldonado (20-6) narrowly edged Beltran via judges' scores of 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29. The win improves his overall UFC record to 3-3.

Rousimar Palhares (15-5) scored a submission win over Mike Pierce in their welterweight debut, securing one of his notorious ankle locks in the opening round. Referee Keith Peterson broke up the action just 31 seconds in, as a frantically tapping Pierce (17-6) screamed in pain. It marked the 12th submission victory of the Brazilian's career.

In a fight that could go a long way to determining a future UFC bantamweight contender, Raphael Assuncao edged TJ Dillashaw via split decision. Dillashaw (8-2) nearly took things out of the judges' hands when he threatened with a rear-naked choke in the first round. Assuncao (21-4) survived and went on to win the next two rounds, according to two judges. The final scores read 29-28 twice for Assuncao and one 29-28 for Dillashaw.

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