Final Thoughts: Demian Maia is surging again after choking out Ben Askren at UFC Singapore (2024)

If you didn’t like Ben Askren vs. Demian Maia, I’m going to have to ask you to reconsider.

Seriously, let’s just go over it together.

There were some good punches, there were some not-so-good punches, there was blood, there were takedowns, and there were scrambles and sweeps and reversals. And then, just as the end of third round approached and we collectively began to worry for the gas tank of those two grapplers who’d been mostly striking up until that point, there it was: the rear-naked choke submission. Complete with a quick nap.

Maia does it!@DemianMaia submits Askren in round 3! Wow! #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

Maybe it wasn’t the grappler’s delight that some were expecting from top to bottom, but, come on, it was still pretty fun.

It was also a bit of a worrying look for Askren (19-2), who ended his past two fights unconscious. As you might recall, unless you’ve been living in a cave without wifi or any form of human communication, Askren was on the losing end of one of the most memorable knockouts in recent history this past July. Before that, Askren had walked away victorious in his UFC debut, but not before being handed some punishment by Robbie Lawler on the feet. From an unbeaten stretch straight into his first skid, “Funky” is now in an awkward spot.

Made a bad decision and I failed. Sorry to everyone who I let down.

— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) October 26, 2019

For Maia, on the other hand, the ESPN+ headliner at Singapore Indoor Stadium marked yet another interesting career surge. After reinventing himself at welterweight and making it all the way to the title, only to go on a three-fight skid, he’s now back on track with three consecutive wins. The 41-year-old Brazilian also has 22 UFC wins under his belt, behind only Donald Cerrone on the all-time leaderboard.


Maia has two fights left on his UFC contract and, judging by his post-fight speech, he still doesn’t seem all that inclined to fight past them. As usual, we didn’t exactly get inflammatory stuff from Maia on the mic, but he did throw out Diego Sanchez’s name.

Honestly? I’m not mad at it.

Yep, that’s a Michael Johnson fight

The UFC matchmakers get a lot of crap, so it’s only fair that they get credit when it’s due.

This Michael Johnson vs. Stevie Ray co-main event?

Ray and Johnson put on a fan-pleasing but also technically sound scrap, with even striking exchanges early on that significantly tipped in Johnson’s favor in the second round, complete with a nail-biting ending to the third.

The two 29-28 scorecards that ruled it a majority decision in Ray’s favor weren’t as unanimously acclaimed, however; despite the fact Johnson (19-4) was in danger late in Round 3, when a bloodied-up Ray (22-9) piled on the offense with his ground-and-pound, some argued that Johnson’s previous output should have at least been enough to warrant a draw.


🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 @StevenRayMMA gets the majority decision win at #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

Outrage is the internet’s currency, though, and either way, it was close. It was also the type of fight we’ve seen a few times from Johnson — you know, the type in which seems to be collecting all the momentum up until the point when he gives it away.

Beneil Dariush is still very good at the jiu-jitsu thing

I could say more, but this clip sums it all up.

Textbook 📚@BeneilDariush gets the takedown, puts his hooks in and sinks in the RNC! #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

Beneil Dariush (16-4-1) is also now three wins removed from his career’s first skid and as easy to root for as ever, as shown in his classy post-fight praise of his competitor, Frank Camacho (22-7). The respect was duly appreciated, making this lightweight match a wholesome one all around.

The Ciryl Gane train has left the station

What if I told the UFC now appears to have a dynamic heavyweight with both powerful, creative striking and slick submission skills? I know, sounds pretty sweet already, but what if I told he also seems surprisingly light on his feet, intelligent in his approach, and able to stay dangerous until the very end?


Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: He’s also younger than 30 and undefeated.

I know, I know. We’ve had our heart broken by the MMA gods and their twisted sense of humor too many times, but can you blame me for being excited about Ciryl Gane?

Coming off a surprising submission win over Raphael Pessoa in his UFC debut, Gane (4-0) brought on the striking we were expecting (and then some) in his second go-round, this time against Dontale Mayes (7-2). Heavy head kicks, body kicks, even one hell of a flying knee were on display for three rounds that looked increasingly dismaying for Mayes. Mayes refused to be put away, nonchalantly eating some strikes that sounded like they were coming from baseball bats and surviving a pair of ruthless onslaughts.

Mayes, to his credit, did a good job of surviving. That is, until he didn’t.

With less than 15 seconds left on the clock, Gane found yet another submission win, this time a heel hook, and spared the judges the trouble of tallying scorecards that would — one would hope — have been ruled overwhelmingly in his favor.

Did not see THAT coming 🙃

After slugging it out for three rounds, @ciryl_gane drops back for the heelhook submission with seconds remaining #UFCSingapore

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 26, 2019

Mayes had a four-fight winning streak snapped while Gane has maintained his pattern of not letting fights go to the judges. We’ll see whether this hype train crashes or not, but it has most definitely left the station.

Randa Markos, true to form

And the octagon’s most notorious seesaw continues.

After squeezing out a hard-fought split-decision win over the ever-game Ashley Yoder (7-5), Randa Markos (10-7) is back on track. The win, which followed a loss to Claudia Gadelha, means that Markos gets to continue her tradition of alternating results in the UFC. With a draw with Marina Rodriguez amid her most recent displays, though, a more optimistic way of looking at it is that Markos now has a single loss among her four most recent bouts.


The 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 scorecards also gave Markos the fourth split call of her UFC run.

Rafael Fiziev is a mean, mean man

In Alex White’s defense, that’s one hell of a body armor he’s got there.

After eating what could have easily been a fight-ending offense early in the first couple of minutes, including a seemingly bottomless barrage of knees, White managed to not only make it out in one piece, but make it all the way to the judges’ scorecards.

Heavy hands. Fast hands. 👊@RafaelFiziev is throwing leather early #UFCSingapore

— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 26, 2019

Few things paint a better picture of a fight than praising the loser for surviving, though, and this was yet another example. The lightweight battle was mostly one-way traffic for Fiziev (7-1), who showed off a stylish, wide-ranging arsenal of strikes so fluid that at points it was as if he was in a hard sparring match with White (13-6). Fiziev also stuffed every single takedown attempted by White, who stood bloodied as the unanimous decision was read.

To White’s credit, he took a round on one of the scorecards, but it was really Fiziev’s show in Singapore.

Fiziev letting the hands fly early in round 1! #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

That … adds up

Here’s the thing about heavyweights. This kind of stuff happens sometimes.

Done in One!

Pavlovich puts Greene away in round 1 #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

Now two first-round knockout wins removed from an unsuccessful UFC debut in November 2018, brought on by none other than Alistair Overeem, Sergey Pavlovich (14-1) is one to keep an eye on, especially after his first-round win over Maurice Greene (8-3). The UFC’s not-so-deep heavyweight division can do way worse than a 27-year-old knockout artist with a single loss on his record.


And speaking of keeping an eye on people

The first Thailand-born fighter to sign with the UFC also ended up being the first Thai fighter to win in the UFC. And she did it dominantly, too. Well, at least according to two of the judges, seemingly most of Twitter and — in the spirit of full disclosure — to the person writing this column.

Loma Lookboonmee (4-1) stayed true to her origins as she drowned Alexandra Albu (3-2) in front kicks, sweeps and a relentless clinch game. Albu had a few sparse moments with a few well-placed shots and top control, and she was game enough to take a 29-28 decision on one of the scorecards, but she also got called out for pulling on her opponent’s shirt in the first round of the strawweight bout. Lookboonmee, who dominated that frame regardless, had an easy fix: She took the shirt off before returning for the second.

If you’re wondering why we removed @lomalookboonmee’s shirt, it’s because it was ripped from her opponent grabbing it. No point deduction for that, though.

— Daniel Rubenstein (@dannyrube) October 26, 2019

Albu, who would have probably benefitted from a game plan that didn’t involve so much striking against a multiple-time muay Thai champion, wore every bit the battle on her thigh and face. Her finger, which apparently had to be popped back into place in between rounds, probably wasn’t that happy, either.

Warning: This is a video of a finger apparently being popped back into place.

It's just a thumb 🤢

Albu has her thumb popped back into place between rounds. #UFCSingapore

— UFC (@ufc) October 26, 2019

“I don’t like his face”

If you’re going to make people wake up (/stay up) for a night (/morning) of face-punching, might as well kick it off with some really big dudes throwing really big things at each other.

Neither Raphael Pessoa nor Jeff Hughes offer flashy finishes. However, Pessoa (10-1) did offer some surprisingly agile offense and a couple of knockdowns over a durable Hughes (10-3), who stayed in the game despite a badly swollen eye that the commentators speculated could’ve stemmed from a broken orbital bone. Both men were looking for recovery — Pessoa was coming off a submission loss in his promotional debut, while Hughes had a defeat and and a no-contest to show for his first pair of UFC outings — but it was Pessoa who got the decision, taking a clean sweep on the scorecards.

Honorable mention to Hughes’ corner, though, for the interesting mid-fight words of motivation: “I don’t like his face,” one of them said. “f*cking take it off.”

Didn’t work, but points for the enthusiasm?

(Top photo of Ben Askren and Demian Maia: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa)

Final Thoughts: Demian Maia is surging again after choking out Ben Askren at UFC Singapore (2024)
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