Two years ago, Jennifer Maia stepped into the Octagon against Valentina Shevchenko with flyweight gold on the line. To that point, Shevchenko seemed invincible at 125 pounds, but Maia found success early against the champion. Although Maia eventually lost a decision, she had a few pockets of success and left many impressed with her effort throughout the fight. After bouncing back with a decision win over Jessica Eye, the Brazilian dropped her subsequent two bouts against Katlyn Chookagian and Manon Fiorot.
It’s that run of form on which she rides into UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Spivac, where she faces Maryna Moroz with the hopes of rebuilding her way back up the ladder.
“I know it’s one step at a time, but I want to get (to a title fight) again and have the opportunity to fight for the belt,” she told UFC.com.
Coming off her loss to Fiorot, Maia didn’t intend to wait eight months to compete again, but according to her, the offers didn’t really come down the pipeline. That meant having to potentially stew over a disappointing effort against the streaking Frenchwoman in Columbus, Ohio.
Maia didn’t hang her head, however. She gave credit to Fiorot for implementing her gameplan and scoring another win to get her closer to a potential shot at “Bullet.” For Maia, it was another lessoned learned on her 29-fight professional career.
“I’ve learned a lot facing very tough opponents that are getting really close to the title now,” Maia said. “I’ve learned new fighting strategies and to not just have one, two or three, but several ones to secure the win.”
After waiting, Maia said she believes this fight against Moroz “came at the right time” and is eager to get her hand raised.
Moroz, who comes into the matchup having won three in a row, including a submission win over Mariya Agapova last time out, is right at the edge of the rankings. Although she is not as touted as previous opponents, Maia thinks the matchup is a perfect one to get back into a groove.
“It’s a good fight for me, even though she’s a bit behind me in the rankings,” Maia said. “But she’s been standing out lately. She’s coming off good wins, so I think it’s a good fight for me to bounce back.”
As far as the stylistic matchup goes, Maia believes she is “superior” in every aspect. She expects to feel comfortable no matter where the fight goes, and she anticipates a more grappling-focused attack from Moroz, who has secured more than half her 11 wins via submission.
“I think I’m better everywhere,” Maia said. “She’ll try to grapple. She might think that’s where she has a chance, but I'm very well prepared to stop her game.”
In terms of the title picture, Maia is under the belief that she needs to string together a few wins before she could get granted a second chance at Shevchenko or whoever holds the belt when that time comes.
More than that, though, Maia is wishes to win over some fans and believers who still hold some doubts about the veteran. An impressive win against someone down the rankings does well to cement her in the Top 10 of the division, and she plans to have a good time while proving that status.
“I want to gain the admiration from the people I haven’t impressed yet,” Maia said. “I want to show I love what I do and that I work really hard. I also want to win the title."
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