Multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Demian Maia choked out Olympian and two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion Ben Askren in the third round of their UFC Fight Night main event Saturday in Kallang, Singapore.
By doing so, Maia laid claim to being the best grappler in mixed martial arts.
"Myself and he, we are the best grapplers in the game," said the 41-year-old Maia (28-9). "And now, maybe today they can do that belt. You know, they're going to do [it] for Masvidal and Nate. They could do the 'Best Grappler' now."
The UFC is already at work designing a novelty belt for next week's main event at Madison Square Garden, where the promotion is planning to declare the winner between Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz as the "BMF champion."
Saturday's fight didn't start out with any grappling prowess on display. The first two rounds were contested mostly with both fighters on their feet, showing stiff, awkward standup skills one might expect from grappling specialists.
The plodding attack of Askren (19-2, 1 NC), a former Bellator and ONE champion who joined the UFC last year, produced the better shots early, as evidenced by the redness covering Maia's face.
But Maia started coming on as Round 2 wore on. When Askren took him to the canvas with under two minutes to go in the round, the Brazilian quickly reversed position and threatened a submission.
It was a sign of what was to come.
The finish came after Maia again reversed position on the canvas in the third round. He seized full mount position and slickly turned it into back control, where he sunk in a rear-naked choke that elicited a single tap from Askren at 3:54 of the round.
It was a shockingly efficient finish against a high-level wrestler such as Askren, who lost his second straight after going unbeaten in his first 20 career fights.
"I was overconfident," said Askren, a 35-year-old fighting out of Milwaukee. "I guess there's a reason he's the best grappler in the division -- possibly in MMA -- ever."
Maia, who won his third straight bout and has 14 career submissions, said he next would like to face veteran Diego Sanchez, "who has been calling me out for years. ... If people like [that fight], I can do."