UFC Fight Night: Ben Askren looks to rebound vs. Demian Maia

UFC Fight Night Ben Askren
Ben Askren hopes to overcome the quickest knockout in UFC history Saturday in Singapore against welterweight Demian Maia. (Photo credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Ben Askren has been locked in on Demian Maia for weeks, though he admits it took some time to turn the page after losing to Jorge Masvidal three months ago. Askren, 35, is a former wrestler at Missouri stepping into the ring with Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Maia in a welterweight fight this weekend at UFC Fight Night 162 in Singapore.

Masvidal ended Askren’s unblemished record with a knee and five-second knockout – the quickest knockout in UFC history.

“That sucked, big-time,” Askren said of the UFC 239 welterweight fight that snapped a 19-fight winning streak that included Bellatore and ONE Championship. “I did not think at any point I would go to sleep from one strike. I didn’t get hit to the point where I was hit once and dropped in 19 fights. To his credit – I don’t like the guy at all – the flying knee was outstanding. I misjudged the speed he was coming at me.”

Askren is a blackbelt in jiu-jitsu himself but an admitted grappler who excels by engaging his opponents. He has spent time in the buildup to this fight refining his jiu-jitsu training in Las Vegas.

“I got the brown belt, then I had two different coaches,” said Askren, whose first two UFC fights have lasted a total of three minutes, 25 seconds.

Maia is familiar with coming back from the quick knockout. He was 5-0 when he lost in 21 seconds in UFC 102 to Nate Marquardt, who connected with a straight right hand to Maia.

“That loss made me change a lot of things in my camp,” Maia said of the 2009 setback that came on the heels of beating Chael Sonnen in London. “I remember becoming more cautious on my feet. Back then I was just throwing hands, knowing that I would close the distance, everything would be alright.”

UFC Fight Night 162: Ben Askren (-182) vs. Demian Maia (+150), Saturday at 8 a.m. ET

Askren said he has a good idea what he’s going to see from Maia based on common opponents and recently studying his approach and positioning.

In Maia’s return to the Octagon after the quick defeat, he stepped up to knock off Dan Miller via unanimous decision at UFC 109. Maia said he doesn’t know how Askren might react to the deflating loss and being taken by surprise.

“I don’t know how his head works,” Maia said, adding that he believes he’ll have an edge over five rounds because of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu style. “He has lost in wrestling before – and he bounced back.

“Based on his credentials in wrestling, because he went to the Olympics and won a national championship, I believe he’s the best (pure wrestler) I’ve ever fought,” Maia said. “But we have fighters with great wrestling in MMA that didn’t come from wrestling, like (Georges) St-Pierre. The sport changes a lot. His style is completely different from wrestlers like Tyron (Woodley) and Colby (Covington).”

Askren said he isn’t worried about taking another flying knee in this match.

“Maia can’t jump that high,” he joked.

Masvidal has moved on to fight Nate Diaz on Nov. 2 in the main event at UFC 244 at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m coming to fight with everything I’ve got,” Masvidal said. “He’s a different fighter than these other guys. I’ve got whatever it takes.”

Diaz said fighting at MSG was one of the best parts of headlining the title fight.

“Being the headliner in that, it’s a historical event center. Muhamad Ali, Mike Tyson – all the big names,” Diaz said. “That’s definitely the best part.”

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Masvidal said “I’m going to take everybody’s name that’s attached to a belt” in his next fight if he can defeat Diaz, but said fighting Conor McGregor will not be an option.

McGregor said Thursday he expects to return to UFC in January. At a press conference in Moscow, McGregor said he’s on the Jan. 18 card in Las Vegas. He said only UFC knows his opponent, but he wants three fights in 2020, including one against the winner of the Masvidal-Diaz bout.

While ESPN reported the fight will likely be against Donald Cerrone or Justin Gaethje, McGregor wasn’t providing any details Thursday.

“Ask the UFC who the opponent is, because I do not give a f– who the opponent is,” said McGregor, who plans to fight three times in 2020.

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