At an age when most fighters are kicked back on the couch, chasing their kids and enjoying the other fruits of retirement, Demian Maia remains a lethal weapon inside the cage.
Maia choked former Bellator MMA and One Championship titleholder Ben Askren unconscious in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 162 headliner on Saturday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Askren lost his grip on reality in the throes of a rear-naked choke 3:54 into Round 3, losing for the second time in as many appearances.
The first and second rounds were awkward but competitive, and they were surprisingly entertaining. Despite connecting with increased regularity and thump on the feet in Round 2, Askren turned to an ill-advised takedown in the third. Maia swept the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler with a heel hook, advanced to three-quarter mount and forced the Wisconsin native to surrender his back. Soon after, the rear-naked choke was in place, the outcome suddenly a formality.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Maia vs. Askren,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Demian Maia vs. Stephen Thompson-Vicente Luque winner: Maia will turn 43 in November but shows no real signs of a precipitous decline. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist has rattled off 10 wins across his last 13 outings, his only defeats coming to Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley. In addition to his world-class skills on the mat, Maia has proven to be remarkably durable since he transitioned to mixed martial arts more than a decade ago, as he has been finished only once in his 37-fight career. Thompson will lock horns with Luque at UFC 244 on Nov. 2.
Steven Ray vs. Marc Diakiese: Though he tends to run hot and cold, Ray rebounded from his June 1 knockout loss to Leonardo Santos and recorded the most significant win of his career in the co-main event, where he took a majority decision from “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 finalist Michael Johnson. The Scot outstruck Johnson by modest margins, registered the only takedown of the fight and hit the accelerator in the third round, where he threw and landed roughly three times as many strikes as “The Menace.” Diakiese last appeared at UFC Fight Night 160 on Sept. 28, when he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Lando Vannata.
Beneil Dariush vs. Francisco Trinaldo-Bobby Green winner: While Dariush may never reach the heights for which he was once projected, the Rafael Cordeiro protégé remains a serviceable middle-tier lightweight -- a point he drove him with his rear-naked choke submission of Frank Camacho. The 30-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt closed the deal 2:02 into Round 1, extending his run of consecutive victories to three. Since his shocking knockout loss to Alexander Hernandez in March 2018, Dariush has beaten Camacho, Drew Dober and Thiago Moises in succession. Trinaldo will face Green under the UFC Fight Night 164 banner on Nov. 16 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Ciryl Gane vs. Tanner Boser: The sample size may be limited, but Gane appears to have all the ingredients necessary to become a star in the heavyweight division. The undefeated Frenchman improved to 5-0 with five finishes, as he submitted Don'Tale Mayes with a heel hook in the third round of their pairing on the main card. Mayes tapped 4:46 into Round 3, his four-fight winning streak having run its course. Gane, a Francis Ngannou stablemate who was hailed more as a kickboxer upon his arrival in MMA, has submitted each of his first two opponents inside the Octagon. Boser made his promotional debut at UFC on ESPN 6, where the Canadian prospect earned a unanimous decision over Daniel Spitz on Oct. 18.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Sergey Spivak: Since he bit off more than he could chew in his UFC debut against Alistair Overeem, Pavlovich has re-established himself as a person of interest inside the thin heavyweight division. The 27-year-old Russian needed a shade more than two minutes to dispose of Maurice Greene with punches on the undercard, as he improved to 14-1. Greene bowed out 2:11 into Round 1. A former Fight Nights Global champion, Pavlovich has delivered 11 of his 14 career wins by knockout or technical knockout, all 11 inside one round. Pavlovich, 24, last competed at UFC 243 on Oct. 5, when he submitted Tai Tuivasa with a second-round arm-triangle choke.