The interesting thing is that nothing that Maia is doing is “new”, it’s all very old school GJJ/BJJ. Everything from his insistence of getting up off his back to try to take the top whenever possible, to his pressure passing game, to his “both arms over” or “both arms under” rather than “seatbelt” attacking style from the back are all old school BJJ concepts and strategies. Look no further than Kron to see another example of someone utilizing similar Old School GJJ concepts in his fights and doing very well in MMA as a result of it.
From what I’ve seen, much of the “innovation” in BJJ is the result of a lack of truly solid fundamentals. And I don’t mean that as a knock btw, there is some very effective stuff out there, but much of it is based more on athleticism/attributes rather than on the principles of leverage, “connection/disconnection”, angles, and the other principles that were designed by Helio and later expanded upon and further refined by Rickson to allow smaller less athletic individuals to overcome larger more athletic individuals. Without those “invisible” ingredients though, BJJ simply becomes an athletic competition which usually goes to the superior athlete. And since many of the guys coming into MMA are top level wrestlers (who are elite level athletes) they are simply “out athleting” many of the BJJ guys coming into MMA.
And that’s not to say there aren’t wrestlers who are amazing technicians and don’t have similar “deep” level and non athletic based approaches to wrestling (Dave Schultz is probably the quintessential example IMO). Just that, often wrestling is about “outworking” your opponent and superior athleticism. There is “technique” no doubt, but (partly due to the rules of wrestling and partly likely due to a lack of truly deep strategy and “hidden” details) the winner is often determined by who is the superior athlete.
This background is also much closer to the current MMA structure than the Gracie’s “Vale Tudo/no rules/street fighting” approach which had no time limits/rounds and was simply a matter of “winning by attrition” in many cases. Yes, modern sport BJJ/Submission Grappling is becoming more similar in round structure to modern MMA, but due to the lack of as many stalling fouls and modern sport BJJ being kind of a “watered down” version of old school
BJJ (where the idea of conservationof energy is still utilized, but due to the round structure in most tournaments not really able to be truly utilized) the athletes that come out of it are generally not quite on the same level as the top level wrestlers in many cases. There are some freaks like Jacare, but even he has had issues with conditioning that you don’t see as often with wrestlers like Chael.
It’s like a raccoon taking on a greyhound. Have them compete in a foot race and the greyhound will win every time (superior athleticism). But, have them fight to the death and the raccoon will lure the greyhound into chasing it into the water, take it into deep water and drown it (strategy).
Just my 2 cents though. Others may disagree.