Ben Askren will try to rebound from his first professional loss tomorrow morning (Sat., Oct. 26, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 162 live on ESPN+ from inside Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, when he collides with fellow grappling wizard Demian Maia in the headlining bout.
Askren, 35, is coming off an infamous five-second knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal back in July. That defeat was the first of Askren’s storied MMA career and ultimately cost him a shot at UFC gold. Remember, “Funky” had made a successful Octagon debut prior to his clash with Masvidal by choking out former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler back in March.
Forced to go back to the drawing board and determine a new path to UFC gold, Askren now finds himself in the cross hairs of the legendary Maia. The Brazilian veteran poses a completely different level of danger compared to Askren’s previous UFC opponents, which came against two of the division’s best strikers. Instead of having to work his way inside on Lawler or find a way to defend the unorthodox strikes of Masvidal, “Funky” will test his elite wrestling game against one of the best submission specialists in MMA history.
It’s a daunting task to say the least, but Askren isn’t scared to tango with Maia on the ground, even if the threat of being finished exists.
“I don’t have any fear of that,” Askren told MMA Fighting. “That being said, I’m preparing for everything because I can’t be as aggressive with my takedown attempts. With Robbie [Lawler] or Jorge [Masvidal], I didn’t really feel like there was any danger in making poor takedown attempt where as with Demian Maia, if I make a poor takedown attempt, I think I could pay for that.
“You’ve got to have good takedown attempts and good takedown execution. If I can’t execute that, we might have to spend a little bit more time on the feet and that’s not a big deal either.”
Maia, 41, has worked his way past some of the most recognizable names at 170 pounds. Whether it’s the aforementioned Masvidal, Gunnar Nelson, Carlos Condit, Matt Brown, Jon Fitch, Rick Story, or Neil Magny, Maia has controlled the competition since his welterweight debut back in 2012. He is widely regarded as the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in MMA competition and rarely encounters an opponent who is willing to test his skills on the ground.
That is, of course, until he meets Askren this weekend in Singapore.
“This is for the best grappler in mixed martial arts,” Askren said. “I think that’s what’s on the line here. That is something I will absolutely be proud of.”
While Askren’s five-second knockout loss to Masvidal is something that will last forever, the welterweight veteran can make up some good ground in the division’s top 10 if he’s able to get past Maia in fashion. That doesn’t necessarily mean a finish, but a strong performance from “Funky” may be all it takes to put him back in title contention entering 2020.
“I think when I win this fight, it puts me in a good position to call out someone else who is highly ranked and then ideally after that it would be time for a title shot,” Askren said.
“That would be ideal but who knows. Maybe it takes one more past that.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 162 fight card on Saturday (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 a.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time of 8 a.m. ET.
For much more on this weekend’s UFC Singapore event click here.