UFC Singapore: A Grappling Super Fight Between Maia and Askren

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UFC Singapore's Demian Maia and Ben Askren
Demian Maia and Ben Askren, UFC Singapore Press Conference Credit: Getty Images

Saturday morning will feature a grappling super fight featuring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia and former Olympic wrestler Ben Askren at UFC Singapore.

After a nearly twenty year career, the light at the end of the tunnel is nearly upon Demian Maia.  He has already said he expects to retire by the end of 2020 and there is a chance that he only competes once or twice more following Saturday night.  A veteran of the UFC since 2007, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace has become arguably the most respected jiu-jitsu fighter of the modern era.  In a career that has seen him challenge for the UFC title in two different weight classes, Maia has impressively remained the same fighter, who looks to get the fight to the ground where his prowess more often than not is too much for opponents.

Looking at his UFC career, Maia’s losses have only come to elite competition that either held UFC gold or were in title contention.  Saturday is not an altogether new match-up for him either; he previously fought Jake Shields in 2013 in a headliner in what was considered match-up of two of the most elite grapplers in mixed martial arts.  Maia came up short in that five round affair and undoubtedly wants to prevail in what could be one of the last tests of his grappling abilities in the cage.

By comparison, Ben Askren’s UFC run has not gone as he would have hoped.  His controversial fight with Robbie Lawler was written off as an anomaly, an odd finish that was unfortunate but not unheard of in the sport.  But the five second loss to Jorge Masvidal in what will likely be the Knockout of the Year has hurt his stock more than he’d like to admit.  Though unfair, the prevailing thought is that the competition outside of the UFC is inferior to what one faces in the Octagon.  After collecting titles in Bellator and ONE Championship, the nature of the loss to Masvidal gives fuel to the critics who would say he didn’t face elite opponents earlier in his career.

Askren has said that a loss on Saturday will give cause for concern about whether he should continue competing.  His ease with the media and the fans has made him a popular athlete who galvanizes people to tune in when he competes.  But at 35 years old, the possibility of a major reinvention as a fighter is highly unlikely.  However, his loss to Masvidal is the only one in a ten year career that has taken him around the United States and Asia.  Not to be forgotten, the fight was widely considered a title eliminator.  Another victory or two could well propel him back into a title picture, that may be sorted out by next summer.

Of the two, Maia is more comfortable on the feet and figures to win the exchanges each time they engage.  That said, Askren is the more effective fighter at getting opponents to the canvas with his wrestling.  While Maia frequently looks for submissions, Askren is more known for smothering opponents with consistent ground-and-pound over the course of the fight.

Neither man is lacking for options with a victory.  In the next several months, the rankings are expected to see a major shake-up with the number of matches involving big names in critical fights.  As the schedule for 2020 begins to take shape, both Maia and Askren will see many potential opponents who are looking to move back up the ladder.

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