Ben Askren had a game plan at Bellator 64 on Friday night, and he executed it to perfection.
His style is not flashy, but his performance was near flawless as he dominated Douglas Lima for all five rounds of their championship fight. The Windsor, Ontario, Canada, crowd, however, was predominantly unimpressed as they shouted boos throughout the main event.
Askren has often been criticized for having “boring” fights. The loudest ovations occurred during the two separate fights in the audience that took place while the welterweight championship bout was in progress. While the audience may not appreciate the way Askren wins, it’s near impossible to not respect the fact that he gets the job done.
Aware of the crowd’s negative reaction, Askren made no apologies for the manner in which he won the 50-45 unanimous decision.
“His stand-up isn’t something you want to mess with. If the Canadian fans want to stand on their feet for 25 minutes with Douglas, well, they wouldn’t last that long because he’d probably finish them earlier. My striking has improved tremendously, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to stand around for 25 minutes and slug it out with someone that has one-punch knockout power. That’s ridiculous. If I wanted to do that I’d go to the sport of kickboxing.”
Askren’s coach, Duke Rufus, echoed the strategy they had set and emphasized the respect they both shared for Lima’s striking ability.
Despite being controlled on the ground the entire fight, Lima attempted several submissions. Askren remained calm and escaped every threat with relative ease, as he stated, “People neglect the fact that I have a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. I feel like I landed ten times as many punches as I ever have and a lot of them were really, really hard. A lot of lesser men would have rolled over and gave up a rear-naked choke like most of the sissies in MMA.”
While Askren has said his striking has greatly improved, there was no evidence of that yet. He emphasizes that he has only been at Rufusport for eight months. That is also the amount of time that he has been dedicated to MMA training full-time. He did indicate that he would be willing to stand longer with someone that is not a prolific striker.
Askren has several accomplishments in wrestling, which he has already translated into a world championship in MMA. Now under the guidance of Duke Rufus, his stand-up skills should only continue to improve. Whether you like his style or not, it’s time to get used to seeing Ben Askren fight in meaningful mixed martial arts bouts for years to come.