Ben Askren has wasted no time making his presence known as a new addition to the UFC roster. Askren is the former Bellator and ONE Welterweight champion who is most known for the top-level wrestling he brings to the sport of mixed martial arts. The Olympian was sure to call out almost every possible contender on Twitter including Mike Perry, Jorge Masvidal, Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Diaz brothers, and Darren Till.
A post shared by Ben Askren (@benaskren) on Feb 1, 2019 at 8:19am PST
Whether for eagerness or marketability, Askren seems ready to show the UFC why he’s considered to be one of the most dominant athletes to come out of the University of Missouri.
To begin, educated fans will doubt that Ben Askren will have a fight with the welterweight champ, Tyron Woodley. Although not in the realm of impossible, Askren and Woodley often work with each other as high-level wrestling partners and have a friendship. Like with many professionals, Askren will not try to win the title from his training partner. Luckily for UFC fans, there is a buffet of possible future opponents for Askren.
A post shared by Ben Askren (@benaskren) on Jul 7, 2017 at 6:44pm PDT
ONE Championship, Ben Askren’s former promotion, is recognized for having some of the best strikers to step into the cage; many of whom are the type of strikers that have been in practice from a young age. Meanwhile, the UFC has a roster of battle-tested and decorated grapplers. Strong wrestlers like Jorge Masvidal and current interim champ Colby Covington will provide much more resistance in the takedown game than many fighters in ONE would. There might be a chance that odds-makers would put Askren as a favorite due to cardio.
Fans would definitely buy a pay-per-view to see Khabib Nurmagomedov test his life-long grappling skills against Ben Askren’s Olympic level wrestling abilities. Of course, “The Eagle” would be in the sights of Askren if he wants to prove himself as the best welterweight in MMA. To defeat the man who neutralized and submitted Conor McGregor would be a huge testament to his case. Former welterweight dominator and former middleweight champion, Georges St. Pierre was also on Askren’s radar but the recent announcement of his retirement has made the matchup a pipe dream. The kind of excitement of “GSP vs Askren” would create is certainly on the same level.
A post shared by Ben Askren (@benaskren) on Mar 1, 2019 at 1:15pm PST
Other matches would pique interest due to size. Fighters like Darren Till, Santiago Ponzinibbio, Alan Jouban, and Stephen Thompson would be difficult to manage due to size and reach advantage. Ponzinibbio’s size and reach played a key role in his dismantling of Neil Magny. The key for Askren would be bypassing reach for takedowns and controls. The same could be said about Darren Till. Till’s size and overall ability helped him climb to the top of the ranks and Askren does not have the knockout power of his friend, Tyron Woodley. Stephen Thompson is a bigger challenge due to his expertise in striking. Thompson’s karate/taekwondo style of kickboxing encourages him to utilize reach and fight from the outside. Although Wonderboy is a high ranking practitioner in both Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, it’s yet to effectively display itself in the cage.
Mike Perry, another welterweight with a strong striking base, can also cause problems for Askren if not careful. Keen boxers are especially adept at exploiting fighters that protect themselves and leave major openings.
This brings us to a couple of fighters that are double threats with their hands and immense grappling experience……the Diaz Brothers. Both Nick and Nate Diaz have proven their proficiency with hands under boxing coach, Richard Perez. But what hardcore fans are curious about is a grappling battle between Ben Askren and either brother. Both brothers are Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts under Caesar Gracie and have submission games that even include rubber guard techniques. Nick, in particular, is trained in Sambo and has a takedown defense that stuffed Georges St Pierre powerful double legs a few times when they fought in 2013. Nate, on the other hand, is much better about pushing the pace and using his hands to set up for clinches, takedowns, and submissions. This dangerous submission grappling skill can be examined from others like Neil Magny but the striking threat is not quite there like the Diaz brothers.
A post shared by Ben Askren (@benaskren) on Nov 20, 2018 at 11:41am PST
Which brings us to one of the most interesting matchups for Ben Askren is in his UFC debut on March 2nd against Robbie Lawler. Lawler is a well-respected MMA veteran with a 28-12 record and a wrestling background that goes back to his high school days. He is also a crowd favorite due to gritty, war-like performances with fighters like Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit. On pure wrestling ability alone, many fans believe that Ben Askren has an edge but think that Lawler’s wrestling is good enough to implement an effective sprawl-and-brawl style force the fight to stay standing. There’s a good chance that the match might rely on enforces their will by the beginning of each round and take a decision or a knockout. Some like Muay Thai and striking coach Tony Concepcion will cite Lawler’s age as a disadvantage against furious pace of Askren’s takedowns notes that Lawler is “injury prone.” Askren will definitely have the test dealing with a powerful striker like the competition in his days with ONE Championship.
With the knowledge that he will not likely fight the champion of the welterweight division if he’s successful enough, people have to wonder why he was exchanged into the promotion. Perhaps the UFC considers him to be a future contender for one of the weight classes the organization might create such as a 165 lb. or a 175 lb. division? Maybe the UFC sees the demeanor he portrays on Twitter and views him as “marketable” like a Conor McGregor-esque type that can better attract the casual fan? A better picture of Askren’s future will be drawn after his meeting with Robbie Lawler.
A post shared by Ben Askren (@benaskren) on Dec 13, 2018 at 11:04am PST