In a battle that was much more than two welterweights fighting for their futures, fourth degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Demian Maia faced off with former Olympic Wrestler Ben Askren this morning in Singapore, but in the end, it was Death by Jiu Jitsu that struck again.
The former two time UFC title challenger Maia submitted Askren late in the third round, once again with his patented rear naked choke, the hold that has brought him most of his eleven submission wins in the UFC. It marked three wins in a row for the Brazilian, but what was really important about the win became evident when Maia jumped on the cage and shouted “Jiu-Jitsu!” at the Singapore crowd. This had been positioned as a battle of wrestling versus Jiu Jitsu for weeks online, and for Maia, this seemed to be the win for his art as much as it was for himself.
As is often is the case when elite grapplers face off, much of the bout was fought on the feet, and in the first round Maia established himself as the superior striker, using much better footwork and touching Askren up repeatedly with a straight left hand. Askren looked elementary on the feet even against Maia, who is no Stephen Thompson or Nate Diaz on the feet.
It was Askren who repeatedly went to initiate the grappling and he finally managed to take Mia down with a minute left in the round, but Maia immediately began attacking with submissions and managed to escape the round with minimal damage.
Despite his rudimentary footwork, Askren did show some better striking in the second, specifically hitting Maia with hard right hooks and right uppercuts, one of raised a nasty cut below Maia’s left eye. Again, Askren got a takedown with about a minute left in the round, but Maia quickly attacked with a triangle and then used an omaplata to sweep Askren and get on top, bringing the crowd to their feet. He nearly had the back and went for a kimura but Askren transitioned and survived the round.
Maia came out in the third and again was landing well on the feet, and Askren closed distance with a bodylock takedown right into side control, but Maia easily managed to get to his feet. Maia was once again landing with his left hand, the body and the head now, as well as the occasional hard knee to the body. When Askren went to take him down, Maia seemed to accept the takedown and right to a heel hook, using the move to sweep on top of Askren. He cut through into the mount, and Askren gave his back for the second Maia needed.
Now on Askren’s back with the bodylock, Maia began working for the choke. Askren did what you are taught to do and went two to one on one of Maia’s arms, but Maia punched through the other arm, slapping on the rear naked choke. Maia didn’t even need to grab his other arm or get a grip of any kind. His squeeze was enough to force a near unconscious Askren to tap out. The time was 3:54 of the third round.
The win caps an excellent comeback year for Maia, who notched his third win of the year following three straight losses, two of which came to world champions Tyron Woodley and Kamaru Usman. He just signed his last UFC contract and seems to be more interested in having fun and challenging himself than winning a world title at this point. This could make the man more dangerous than ever.
The loss also culminates a highly disappointing year for Askren, who talked a lot of trash before and through a 1-2 year that saw him slammed on his head and bloodied before getting a tainted win over Robbie Lawler, an eight-second knockout at the hands of Jorge Masvidal, and now this lost to the forty-one year old Maia. Tough break, yo…