Four-time NCAA finalist, two-time NCAA champion, with 91 pins through four years at the University of Missouri. Member of the 2008 Olympic Wrestling team. Undefeated and former Champion of both Bellator and ONE Championship, with an undefeated 18-0 record in MMA. Ben Askren is one of the most dominant grapplers the UFC has ever had on its roster, without even having a UFC fight on his resume.
With no love lost between the UFC newcomer and current UFC President, Dana White, it seemed inevitable that we would never see Ben Askren match up against the best in the UFC. Luckily for fight fans, UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has had his own problems with the UFC brass and had an expiring contract. In the first major trade in MMA history, the UFC traded their Flyweight Champion to ONE Championship and received a Welterweight Champion in return. Ben Askren for Demetrious Johnson. Both fighters took to social media shortly after the announcement in order to express their excitement in joining their new promotion. Now back to Ben “Funky” Askren.
The one knock on the MMA career of Ben Askren is his lack of competition within Bellator and ONE Championship (formerly ONE FC). Regardless, against two of his toughest opponents in Shinya Aoki and Douglas Lima, Askren controlled the fight from start to finish. During a title fight against Aoki in 2017, Askren defeated the 42-8 Japanese southpaw grappler with a TKO 57 seconds into the first round. Douglas Lima lasted the full five rounds inside the cage with Askren back in 2012, but there was zero controversy in the unanimous decision for Ben Askren.
While you can rate Askren’s striking as average at best, the Wisconsin native can get by with his lackluster ability on the feet, unlike a majority of current UFC fighters. This isn’t an overstatement: Ben Askren was not hit in 2017. In three fights in ONE, while defending his title, Askren avoided strikes for 4 rounds combined. Without facts it seems like folklore, but I urge you to watch those three fights to wrap your head around just how dominant he can be. Simply stated, if you find yourself under the former NCAA Champ, you’re not finding a way back up.
The future of Ben Askren now rests in the UFC matchmakers’ hands while the public waits for an opponent for his debut within the promotion. Those who did not know Ben Askren were at least introduced to his social media personality shortly after the trade announcement. There was no shortage of cyber exchanges between him and the rest of the UFC roster, taking advantage of the recent hype as a result of the first major trade in MMA history.
Take a number, Ben Askren will get to you eventually if your name is on the UFC roster. Twitter fingers aside, let’s dive deeper into who will be standing across from the Wisconsin native when he makes his UFC debut.
While names like Khabib Nurmagomedov and George St. Pierre seem attractive as future opponents for Askren, it seems that a fight between Khabib and GSP is in the works. Furthermore, UFC President Dana White has stated that Ben Askren’s UFC debut will be against somebody ranked within the top 5 of the welterweight division. In the WME/interim belt era, the title fight to make in the welterweight division is current champ Tyron Woodley against Interim Champ Colby Covington, in order to unite that belt. Which leaves three other fighters within the top five of the division; Darren Till, Rafael Dos Anjos and Stephen Thompson.
#3 Rafael Dos Anjos is scheduled to fight Kamaru Usman on November 30th in the TUF Finale, while holding a win over Robbie Lawler in Lawler’s last fight back in 2017. These two are unlikely to be match ups for Askren as a result. Which leads us to a debut against Darren Till or Stephen Thompson, both fighters who are coming off a loss. Darren Till’s latest bout ended in a 2nd round submission to Champion Tyron Woodley. Stephen Thompson’s last fight went the distance resulting in a unanimous decision loss to, none other than, Darren Till.
Using controversial, nonsensical MMA math, we can assume UFC matchmakers are looking to get Ben Askren and Darren Till in the octagon together. While Darren Till was one of many on the list of Ben Askren’s twitter victims, the London native makes the most sense within the current welterweight division.