Saturday night was an evening of prospecting for the hardcore MMA fanbase. Before my usual meetups with friends at the local pubs and subsequent hazy late night arguments about UFC cards, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the solid MMA action happening earlier in the evening.
Most notably, UWC featuring our own Luke Thomas in a color commentary role delivered some solid action with War Machine defeating Rashad Woods and Mike Easton retaining his title. While many fans focused on the card for the more venerable matchups of the evening, I turned my gaze toward the Patriot Act 2 card to get another glimpse at a promising prospect in Ben Askren.
If you haven't heard of Ben Askren, you probably should. He's a two-time Division I NCAA wrestling champion, both at 174 pounds. He finished his collegiate career with a 153-8 record with 91 pins. He's third all-time on the list of Division I wrestlers in pins, a four-time All-American, and only the second wrestler ever to win the Dan Hodge Trophy, the outstanding college wrestler of the year, two times.
He also made the 2008 Olympic squad, but lost to Cuba's Ivan Zaldivar in round robin action. One of the major critiques in Askren's game coming out of the Olympics was his inability to stop the takedown because he was mostly an offensive wrestler. Zaldivar is known for having some of the most explosive takedowns in world wrestling circles, and Askren's inability to stop those takedowns led to his exit at the Olympic games.
Not to be deterred by defeat, Askren switched to MMA in late 2008 and now trains with American Top Team in Columbia, MO. A purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu backed by some of the best wrestling skills coming out of college, Askren has the potential to become a solid upper-echelon Welterweight in the years to come.
Saturday night's Patriot Act 2 saw Askren gaining his second test in professional MMA against an one-dimensional Mitchell Harris. In the opening exchange, Askren ate a huge overhand right, but countered with heavy knees from the clinch. He subsequently was able to gain a takedown, work into full mount, and eventually move to an arm triangle in a quick transition. A very impressive performance from Askren who not only showed some very well-rounded Muay Thai skills in the clinch, but some dominating ground control and submission ability.
Askren is surely making the right moves. He's facing equally experienced competition to gain experience and confidence in the cage, but he's also likely going to begin facing some better competition in the months to come to test himself. He has a top fight camp in American Top Team behind him, excellent jiu-jitsu and striking coaches, and he obviously has the determination to learn quickly as he's already obtained a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. Keep an eye on Ben Askren.
Check out Saturday night's fight with Mitchell Harris: