Paul Miller – USA TODAY Sports
Ahead of our UFC Singapore headliner, Demian Maia vs. Ben Askren was unofficially billed as a bout which would determine, ‘The Best Grappler in the World’. Brazil’s Maia, a phenomenal ground fighter, one of the best Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu practitioners modern mixed-martial-arts has ever seen. The Fabio Gurgel black belt is an ADCC world champion, the owner of one of the slickest rear-naked chokes we’ve ever witnessed, and a two-time UFC championship challenger.
His opponent, Ben Askren – one of the most talented traditional wrestlers to grace the Octagon, an Olympian, a former Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight champion and an NCAA Division I best. Two hugely contrasting styles, but also two clear standouts in their respective fields. Sao Paolo native Maia entered the contest in the midst of a somewhat renaissance. Two wins from two, a submission of Lyman Good and a unanimous decision of Anthony Rocco Martin. Iowa born Askren, is two fights deep into his Octagon run, a controversial yet major victory over former division champion Robbie Lawler, then a shuddering flying-knee stoppage loss to Jorge Masvidal.
Both men, as often the case with supreme grappling talents, cancelled each other out in the early clinch openings, with Maia scoring the best of the striking exchanges in the opening frame, with a stiff straight left. In both the closing stages of the first and second round, Askren scored round stealing takedowns. Notably in the second round, he was swept by Maia who attempted to throw up an omoplata. Maia was slammed in the third round but cleverly swept once more and mounted. Eventually taking Askren’s back, Maia switched to a body-triangle and after some hand fighting, secured the rear-naked choke and put Askren to sleep.
Demian Maia vs. Diego Sanchez:
After the stoppage, Maia spoke with former UFC welterweight title chaser Dan Hardy. Maia talked of his new contract, and how he wanted to make the Octagon walk two more times. During the interview, the 41-year-old called for a meeting with fellow favorite and sport veteran, Diego Sanchez. ‘The Nightmare’ recently made his welterweight return, and despite two losses in the division, The Ultimate Fighter 1 victor has grabbed two victories over Craig White and a finish of Mickey Gall.
The 37-year-old Albuquerque native is similarly to Maia, nearing the twilight of his hugely entertaining career and is still some considerable time away from achieving championship contender status. Maia entered the bout grasping the #10 rank at 170-pounds, while Sanchez remains unranked after his loss to Michael Chiesa in July. At this stage in both men’s storied journeys, this fight makes sense.
Demian Maia vs. Stephen Thompson – Vicente Luque Winner:
Next Saturday in New York City, former two-time welterweight title hopeful Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson returns to the Octagon, where he meets the surging Vicente Luque on the main card. Thompson makes the walk for the first time since his second round knockout defeat to Anthony Pettis, while Luque cracked the top ten in August via a close win over ‘Platinum’ Mike Perry. A clash with Demian Maia for the victor of the UFC 244 bout would act as a good gauge to measure either man’s current level. Maia’s title aspirations seem to have come and gone, but a victory over somebody with as lofty a name as Ben Askren certainly inserts him into the top ten of the division. ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson has pushed Tyron Woodley to his absolute limit on two separate occasions, and a triumph over Luque keeps his spot within the top ten secure.
Ben Askren vs. Gilbert Burns:
Ben Askren most certainly finds himself between a rock and a hard place after his loss to Maia. The 35-year-old is 1-2 in the promotion since his trade with Demetrious Johnson. Askren, has become somewhat of an internet meme since his loss to Jorge Masvidal, and for someone who entered the organization with some real title hopes, Askren has dropped out of contention almost as soon as he entered it. One man who has made his mark on the welterweight division recently, is Brazilian grappler Gilbert ‘Durinho’ Burns. The World Cup and No-Gi specialist has lodged four consecutive victories, including welterweight wins over Alexey Kunchenko and fellow grappling standout Gunnar Nelson.
Ben Askren vs. Robbie Lawler II:
Granted, this one is a bit of a long-shot. Lawler returns to action at UFC 245 on December 14th. and was originally paired with Argentine all-rounded Santiago Ponzinibbio. A staph infection forced ‘Gente Boa’ from the contest, leaving the former welterweight best in need of a replacement. Lawler welcomed Askren to the Octagon at UFC 235 in March, and despite dumping Askren on his head and bloodying the wrestler, Askren secured a rather dubious bulldog choke win. Iowa native Askren would be facing a quick turnaround, just nine weeks in fact, but at this stage in his UFC stint, it’s win or bust for the Roufusport trainee. This rematch is a huge ask.
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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