Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight grapplers Demian Maia and Ben Askren will clash today (Oct. 26, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 162 from inside Singapore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapore.
Consecutive losses to the top three ranked Welterweights in the world proved that Maia was no longer in the title mix, but the 41-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace proved there was still something left in the tank by picking up a pair of quality victories. Maia is also in the running for most wins in UFC history, but the bigger story here is really the battle of elite Welterweight grapplers.
Though Askren’s credentials and wrestling skill cannot be denied, his UFC career has not exactly gone as planned. Askren strangled Robbie Lawler, sure, but the finish was controversial, and Askren was nearly pummeled into a paste before his rally. Then, the infamous Jorge Masvidal flying knee occurred and well ... “Funky” could really use a win.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 211), Carlos Condit (UFC on FOX 21), Neil Magny (UFC 190), Rick Story (UFC 160), Gunnar Nelson (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 214), Colby Covington (UFC Fight Night 119), Rory MacDonald (UFC 170), Jake Shields (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: Like his opponent, Maia is a specialist. Though he’s likely the superior striker in this match up, Maia’s usual path to victory involves snatching up single leg, transitioning toward the back, and strangling his opponent from there.
Whether on top or bottom, it’s my opinion that Demian Maia can effectively grapple and win scrambles opposite Askren. Plus, Maia doesn’t have to win every scramble — he just has to win them occasionally, as Maia is more likely to trap Askren in a position like back mount for extended periods of time.
The real risk of this match up is cardio. Maia is 41 years old, and this is a five round fight. If Maia does not manage his energy carefully, it won’t exactly matter how their grappling skills match up, as he’ll be too tired to represent himself well.
As such, I’d like to see Maia avoid grinding for takedowns too often. Since he’s the better striker, it would be beneficial to stick Askren with the occasional left hand until “Funky” decides to shoot. In MMA, it’s generally less exhausting to defend/counter takedowns than shoot them, and there’s still every chance Maia can sneak his way into top position even if Askren initiates the shot.
Record: 19-1 (1)
Key Wins: Robbie Lawler (UFC 235), Douglas Lima (Bellator 64), Andrey Koreshkov (Bellator 97), Shinya Aoki (One Championship 64)
Key Losses: Jorge Masvidal (UFC 239)
Keys to Victory: Similar to his opponent, Askren wants this — and every — fight on the mat. Generally, Askren wastes little time in diving for a leg or punching into the clinch, where Askren is then able to force his foe into a world of wrestling that they are rarely able to pull away from.
As explained above, cardio and the fact that this is a 25 minute fight seem to be Askren’s great advantages here. We’ll see who’s the “better grappler” for the first five-ten minutes. Afterward, we’ll see who’s in better shape, and that’s very likely to be Askren, who’s proven himself more consistent over five rounds.
With that in mind, I’d like to see an extra bit of focus from Askren on clinch work and dirty boxing. It doesn’t take a ton of boxing know-how to jam an opponent into the fence, control an underhook, and sock ‘em in the jaw with the free hand. However, it is exhausting, and that’s a position where Maia’s jiu-jitsu expertise won’t really help him.
So long as Askren can avoid catastrophe early, he should take over in the second half of this bout.
Bottom Line: It’s a rare main event built for grappling fans.
Is there much on the line for Demian Maia, besides the general concept that losing a fight is not fun? Not really. Maia is quickly approaching the end of his pro career, and he’s not in title contention anymore. At this point, the goal is bragging rights, as well as taking a step closer to catching Donald Cerrone in that all-time wins record — but let’s be honest, “Cowboy” will eventually run away with that record.
As for Askren, this is a huge fight! “Funky” himself admitted that his UFC career would be in a very bad position with a loss here, which would effectively remove him from title contention. At 35 years of age, there isn’t exactly a ton of time left for Askren to bounce back either. Simply put, another loss makes Askren’s path forward rather murky.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 162 fight card this weekend right HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 a.m. ET.
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At UFC Fight Night 162, Demian Maia and Ben Askren will battle in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?