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UFC Fight Night 162: Maia vs. Askren - Predictions and Picks

Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
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Timeless

The UFC returns to Singapore this Saturday as Demian Maia faces Ben Askren
The UFC returns to Singapore this Saturday as Demian Maia faces Ben Askren

The UFC returns to Singapore this weekend for the first time since June 2018, and like that show – which was main evented by a fight between Leon Edwards and Donald Cerrone – this one isn’t the strongest card overall.

The main event is tremendous, of course – a grappling fan’s dream match at Welterweight between Ben Askren and Demian Maia – but outside of that? There’s not a lot to be excited about.

Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night 162: Maia vs. Askren.

#1 Demian Maia vs. Ben Askren

Ben Askren is looking to bounce back from the first loss of his career this weekend
Ben Askren is looking to bounce back from the first loss of his career this weekend

Not only should this be one hell of a match between two of the UFC Welterweight division’s premier grapplers, but it could also have severe ramifications for both men. Maia is on a two-fight winning streak, but at 41 years old, there’s always the question of exactly how much he’s got left in the tank, and Askren is definitely the best fighter he’s had to take on since his loss to Kamaru Usman last year.

For Askren, meanwhile, practically everything is on the line. A semi-expensive acquisition to the UFC – for those who’ve forgotten, he was traded to ONE FC in exchange for former Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson last autumn – Askren was never UFC President Dana White’s favourite fighter, but his 18-0 record meant he almost had to be given a shot in the UFC.

Since arriving though, results have varied. He was almost KO’d by Robbie Lawler in his debut, only to somehow rise from his grave to submit the former champ with a bulldog choke – although it was controversial as Lawler never actually tapped. His second fight, however, saw him hit with a flying knee from Jorge Masvidal, and this time there was no rising up – he’d suffered his first career loss in an embarrassing 5 seconds.

If he can beat Maia this weekend, the Masvidal KO won’t be forgotten, but there’ll be no suggestion that Askren doesn’t belong at the UFC level. If he loses, though? It wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see Dana cut him from his contract and throw him under the proverbial bus at the same time. So can Askren win?

I actually think this is a good fight for him. Obviously, Askren’s big strength is his wrestling and funky grappling style; his weakness is clearly his striking as he looks a bit robotic and while his chin isn’t necessarily bad, the fact that his defense isn’t great means he’s often wide open to get hurt. But this time he’s not against a dangerous striker, he’s against a fellow grappler.

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Can Maia strike? Sure, he’s improved dramatically over the decade plus he’s been with the UFC, and he now throws combinations well, has a semi-decent jab, and isn’t terrible with his kicks either. But he’s also largely slow for a Welterweight, doesn’t really carry KO power, and tends to gas out in fights that see him strike for extended periods of time.

But like Askren, Maia is far more recognised for his grappling skills. He’s a very different grappler to Askren in that he’s more jiu-jitsu and submission based than ‘Funky Ben’, but that shouldn’t matter here – I just wouldn’t expect a lot of striking to take place, unlike Maia’s most recent losses.

Askren is undoubtedly the better wrestler here, but that doesn’t mean he’ll look to copy the blueprint to beat Maia used by fellow excellent wrestlers Tyron Woodley, Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman. All three of those men – powerful wrestlers with strong striking to back it up – looked to stand with Maia, using their wrestling in reverse to stuff the submission ace’s takedowns and beat him up standing.

Askren, on the other hand, is more likely to dive right into Maia’s wheelhouse. Is that dangerous? Sure, but it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. Jake Shields, for instance, was able to outgrapple Maia across five rounds for a surprising decision without really using his striking, and Rory MacDonald played in the guard of Maia for two rounds and had few issues there either.

For me then this should likely come down to the question of whether Askren can use his funky wrestling style – which relies heavily on scrambles, risky moves that involve giving up position at times and unorthodox takedowns – to wear out Maia without landing in a submission.

Given that the majority of Maia’s submissions happen from him taking the back, particularly in this later stage of his career, and the fact that we’ve also seen him gas out on numerous occasions, even in three-rounders (vs. MacDonald) and in five rounders he was winning (vs. Ryan LaFlare), I’m willing to bet that Askren can take those risks and wear Maia out for either a late TKO or more likely, a decision win.

The Pick: Askren via unanimous decision

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