One of the narratives surrounding UFC Singapore is how will Ben Askren perform in his first fight since losing in just five seconds to Jorge Masvidal. His opponent on Saturday, Demian Maia, knows how bad that hurts.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist was undefeated in mixed martial arts, and 5-0 with five submissions in the UFC, when he took on Nate Marquardt in Aug. 2009. He was coming off a ridiculous win over Chael Sonnen, but paid the price on the feet against someone like Marquardt and got knocked out in just 21 seconds at UFC 102.
Askren’s defeat to Masvidal was also his first in MMA, snapping a remarkable 19-fight winning streak that included title wins at Bellator and ONE Championship. Maia doesn’t know how he’ll come back after such a heartbreaking defeat, and shares how his own loss affected the future of his career.
“That loss made me change a lot of things in my camp back then,” Maia told MMA Fighting ahead of Saturday’s welterweight main event. “I remember becoming more cautious on the feet.
“Back then I was just throwing hands knowing that I would close the distance and everything would be alright. I would clinch eventually and everything would work. And when I was knocked out by Nate I kind of had no strategy. I was throwing kicks, trying knees… I became more cautious on the feet after that.”
Maia was back in the cage six months later, defeating Dan Miller via unanimous decision. Two moths after that, the jiu-jitsu wizard stepped in on short notice against middleweight champion Anderson Silva, replacing an injured Vitor Belfort in Abu Dhabi.
Maia doesn’t know how Askren will react to his defeat to “Gamebred” “because I don’t know how his head works,” he said, “But he has lost in wrestling in the past and bounced back, so I don’t expect him to be an easy fight. He had to deal with losses in wrestling, losses in training, losses in life, and still got where he is today, so he knows what he has to do.”
The classic jiu-jitsu vs. wrestling contest is an “interesting five-round challenge,” Maia said. The Brazilian calls Askren “one of the best wrestlers in MMA” today and expects an “unique challenge” in Singapore.
“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 we 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).”
Maia expects an exciting contest in the first of three bouts he has left in his deal with the UFC, but isn’t sure how the styles will match up when the the fight begins. He’s ready for five rounds, but plans on submitting Askren sooner.
“Jiu-jitsu fighters usually have an advantage in longer fights even though MMA has breaks between rounds,” Maia said. “In general, I think longer fights benefits jiu-jitsu fighters because the other guy can make mistakes.”