MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 20, a five-round welterweight bout between Ben Askren and Demian Maia. The event takes place on Saturday, October 26 at Singapore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapore.
Ben Askren (-185)
Askren (19-1, 1 NC) is the former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion. The 35-year-old American is 1-1 so far since signing with the UFC last year, defeating Robbie Lawler by submission then being knocked out in five seconds by Jorge Masvidal. He also has notable wins over Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov. Askren’s big mouth is what gets fans talking about him, but he has been a dominant fighter for the majority of his career. His wrestling is top-notch, and he’s able to take down the majority of his opponents and grind them out on the mat for decisions or even finishes. Aside from the Masvidal fight, Askren has been pretty much unstoppable in his MMA career. His striking is nothing special, but his vaunted wrestling game is usually all he needs to get the job done. A win here over Maia and Askren will jump into title contention.
Demian Maia (+160)
Maia (27-9) is one of the top-ranked welterweight contenders in the UFC. The 41-year-old American has been an elite middleweight and welterweight for over a decade in the UFC. He has fought and defeated a list of notable fighters including Jorge Masvidal, Carlos Condit, Neil Magny, and Chael Sonnen. He’s also lost quite a few fights in the Octagon, giving him an overall record of 21-9 in the UFC. That’s still an excellent record, and Maia’s longevity in the sport is something to marvel at. Despite being one of the oldest fighters in the division Maia is still at the top of his game, beating Lyman Good and Anthony Rocco Martin in his last two fights. Those wins snapped a three-fight losing skid for the Brazilian, who lost to elite fighters in Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley before that. Although Maia’s striking has never impressed, his ground game has helped him become one of the most winning fighters in UFC history. He believes he still has something left in the tank, and a win here over Askren would shoot him right back to the top of the welterweight division.
Fight Breakdown: This is a really interesting matchup between two of the best grapplers in the UFC welterweight division. Although Askren was knocked out by Masvidal in just five seconds, you can’t forget everything he accomplished in his career prior to that fight. For the past decade, Askren has proven he is one of the most dominant wrestlers in the sport and prior to the Masvidal fight he has shown a better ability to finish fights. On the other hand, Maia showed in his last two fights with Good and Martin that he’s still an exceptional grappler and can beat anyone who isn’t elite. Maia’s brand of BJJ has been effective for over a decade inside the Octagon and he will likely enter the UFC Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done. However, the one problem he’s had in his career is when he goes up against dominant wrestlers who are able to evade his submissions, keep top position, and use superior cardio to outlast him. Askren certainly qualifies as that type of fighter. I can’t completely count Maia out of this fight because he will have plenty of opportunities to snag a submission. But I believe Askren’s dominant top game will be the difference in this fight, and I see him grinding out a close decision over five rounds.
Prediction: Ben Askren wins by decision