Styles make fights, and when Ben Askren steps into the Octagon to face Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 162 on October 26, 2019 on ESPN+ at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore fans across the globe are about to be treated to something special and different in the modern era of mixed martial arts. In one of the more entertaining grappling matchups to occur since Randy Couture versus Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, one of our generations best collegiate wrestlers in Ben Askren will meet Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master Demian Maia in a mixed martial arts contests that will likely be analyzed and discussed well into the future in MMA and grappling circles. This is a very special matchup, one not often seen in the modern era of well rounded mixed martial artists, where two grappling specialists from different disciplines meet in the Octagon to see who the better man is that night in the cage.
In a September 4, 2019 YouTube video titled, “Who is the better grappler - Ben Askren or Demian Maia?” former UFC middleweight title contender and ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen doesn’t know if there is a more compelling matchup in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) for former collegiate wrestling standout and 2008 Olympian Ben Askren than UFC welterweight Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master Demian Maia. According to Sonnen, Tyron Woodley, the former defending UFC welterweight champion, “Fought Demian Maia, trains with Ben Askren, said purely from a grappling standpoint Ben Askren will cruise through this guy.”
Maia, a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu world champion who is among the greatest submission artists in UFC history, has a very unique style of Jiu-jitsu in Sonnen’s analysis who relies on a top-heavy Brazilian Jiu-jitsu game to work his submission magic. According to Sonnen, one of the many tricks Maia has up his sleeve is the method he uses in order to achieve top position. While most fighters will look to utilize their wrestling to take their opponents down and obtain a dominant top position, Maia utilizes the reversal. Which means Demian is more than willing to go to the ground, allowing dominant wrestlers just like Ben Askren to fall into his web of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu wizardry.
In January of 2013, a reporter for TheWellVersed.com asked former UFC welterweight title contender Jon Fitch, “How do you maintain being unchokeable against a guy like Demian Maia, a guy who is considered one of the best grapplers in the game?” According to Fitch, who is one of the most dominant wrestlers to ever grace the UFC welterweight division, “In a situation with someone like Demian Maia avoidance is the best policy. If I can avoid anything around him being around my neck that would preferable.” For a fighter like Fitch, a dominant top position wrestler with a reputation for being difficult to submit to respect the repertoire of Demian Maia means Ben Askren should really consider his game plan coming into this fight.
I’ve watched mixed martial arts for over 25 years now, in that time I’ve seen some of the best wrestlers in the world effectively ply their craft in the Octagon. The first time I saw Ben Askren in a fight I knew I was looking at somebody special, despite the endless loops of dubious origin on Twitter of Askren getting toe tagged by Jorge Masvidal in the fastest KO in UFC history (5-seconds) and Ben understandably getting dominated by Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs in a wrestling superfight, Ben Askren is still a wrestler who will toy with even the best mixed martial artists on the ground.
What makes this fight so compelling is that its simply not a good idea to go to the ground with Demian Maia. In a world where avoidance is the best policy with Demian, is the wrestling phenom going to work his usual magic on the ground with a literal Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master? If there is any justice in this world, and the MMA gods give their blessing to this fight, Ben Askren is going to do just that and we as fans are going to be treated to one of the highest levels of a grappling based fist fight in UFC history.
Conventional wisdom would indicate that it would be a good idea for Askren to use his exceptional wrestling ability to deny the inevitable takedown attempts Maia will be looking to execute and then use his kickboxing ability to give Maia something to think about on the feet. As much as I respect Ben Askren, I am not sure if he could win a standup fight with Demian Maia, so I am fully expecting to see Askren take it to the ground at some point in the fight and it will be very interesting to see how this contest unfolds from that point on.
For the mixed martial arts nerds of the world, a high-level wrestler versus Brazilian Jiu-jitsu fight harkens back to the early days of the UFC in many ways and offers something different than the conventional Jack of all trades, master of none model fans are accustomed to seeing in the modern era of mixed martial arts. Scheduled as a five-round main event, the longer this fight goes on the more it begins to favor Maia. Though Askren is a true wrestling prodigy and is in fact entirely capable of grappling with Maia, it would be very wise of Ben to not forget this is a mixed martial arts fight.
Demian Maia is a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialist who relies on his outstanding abilities on the mat to dominate his opponents. Across the cage from him will be a collegiate wrestling phenom and former Olympic wrestler in Ben Askren who possesses a unique and special grappling game in his own right that is all but guaranteed to come into conflict with the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master’s bread and butter offensive capabilities on the canvas at some point in the fight. This is going to be a very interesting chess match at the highest levels of grappling in the world of mixed martial arts that you’re not going to want to miss.