As an Olympian and two-time NCAA champion, Ben Askren is more than willing to match his wrestling against anybody in the UFC.
At UFC Fight Night from Singapore, the outspoken welterweight contender will face a different kind of animal when it comes to his grappling prowess when he takes on submission specialist Demian Maia.
Maia has wrapped up nine career submission victories in the UFC with a long list of achievements from his grappling career where was a multi-time ADCC champion.
While Askren has certainly faced good fighters throughout his career, Maia is the kind of specialist that could give even the greatest grapplers nightmares of being tied up with him on the ground. A great number of his past opponents have don’t everything possible to avoid even going to the mat with him but Askren isn’t scared at the prospect of matching his grappling against Maia’s.
“I don’t have any fear of that,” Askren told MMA Fighting. “That being said, I’m preparing for everything because I can’t be as aggressive with my takedown attempts. With Robbie [Lawler] or Jorge [Masvidal], I didn’t really feel like there was any danger in making poor takedown attempt where as with Demian Maia, if I make a poor takedown attempt, I think I could pay for that.
“You’ve got to have good takedown attempts and good takedown execution. If I can’t execute that, we might have to spend a little bit more time on the feet and that’s not a big deal either.”
While his list of strictly grappling accolades is nowhere as deep as Maia, Askren still believes his wrestling will prove to be the superior weapon if this fight hits the floor.
Askren is obviously preparing for all contingencies — including the one where this fight turns into a faux kickboxing match for five rounds — but it’s much more likely a different kind of battle will unfold.
Much like the “baddest motherf—ker” belt that’s going up for grabs in the UFC 244 main event between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz, Askren has a title of his own that he believes will be decided in his fight against Maia.
“This is for the best grappler in mixed martial arts,” Askren said. “I think that’s what’s on the line here. That is something I will absolutely be proud of.”
Assuming he’s able to get the job done against Maia, Askren will then turn his attention back towards his ultimate goal to become the best welterweight in the world. His journey to that achievement took a dramatic turn back in July when he was flattened by Jorge Masvidal with a five-second flying knee knockout.
Askren now looks at that loss as a bump in the road, but definitely not the kind of setback that will keep him away from the UFC welterweight title for very long.
“I think when I win this fight, it puts me in a good position to call out someone else who is highly ranked and then ideally after that it would be time for a title shot,” Askren said.
“That would be ideal but who knows. Maybe it takes one more past that.”