"The strategy was to do what I did – go and try to take him down and take his back," Maia said. "Unfortunately, I was not able to submit him because he's very tough. I just realized when I got inside the cage and got his back, I said, 'OK, now let's try to do what I did in my last fight.' But it just didn't work. We had an 'A' plan and a 'B' plan, and the 'A' plan is what I did."
Maia said Plan B revolved around the standup game and specific striking techniques he worked on to prepare for Fitch. But with the easy takedowns and ground control throughout the fight, he never needed to go there.
Fitch's only other UFC losses came in a title fight against champion Georges St-Pierre in 2008 and a 12-second knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141.
"I'm very happy because I won against one of the toughest guys in the division," Maia said. "I just remember him losing to GSP and Johny Hendricks, and I was able to control him. Of course, I always like to submit (my opponents). I've been training a lot more jiu-jitsu nowadays to submit (my opponents) and give a good fight for the fans. But sometimes, it's just impossible."
That appeared to be the case against Fitch, whose highly touted submission defense was on display again, the way it was for his win over Erick Silva. But he never was able to get any offense mounted against Maia the way he was able to do against Silva.
So does Maia regret not dropping down sooner now that he's become one of the hottest welterweights in the division?
"Yeah, I think that sometimes," he said. "But you can't go back to the past. So I just think ahead."
Looking ahead just might put him right in the thick of things in the weight class. The welterweight division will see Georges St-Pierre (23-2 MMA, 17-2 UFC) defend his title against Nick Diaz (26-8 MMA, 7-5 UFC) at UFC 158 next month in Montreal. And on the same card, four contenders will fight in an unofficial "tournament" – Johny Hendricks (14-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) meets Jake Ellenberger (28-6 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Rory MacDonald (14-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) tries to avenge the only loss of his career against Carlos Condit (28-6 MMA, 5-2 UFC).
But UFC President Dana White said Maia could wind up fighting one of those four in order to get right into the title picture.
"It's a good win for him," White said. "For Fitch, he's lost two of his last three – but he's a tough guy, and the perfect way to describe the fight is, (Maia) out-Fitch'd Fitch. I mean, I said the same thing as everybody else was saying. After this tournament happens up in Montreal, he'll fall in there with one of those guys and we'll see what happens. But I see him becoming a No. 1 contender pretty quick."