Ben Askren entered MMA as one of the most highly touted prospects in years. An NCAA division I national champion and 2008 Olympian, mma bloggers like Bloody Elbow's own Luke Thomas were talking about Askren long before he entered MMA.
Although he'd gone 3-0 since entering MMA in early 2009, many remained skeptical of Askren as he seemed to show almost no striking acumen.
Tonight his utterly dominating win over the proven veteran and rising contender Dan Hornbuckle (21-3) showed that Ben Askren is indeed something special in MMA. Askren took Hornbuckle down early and often. Hornbuckle was a game opponent and fired off sub attempts and reversals throughout the fight. But Askren proved just as adept in the scramble as shooting for an ankle.
Even when he seriously threatened Askren with a kimura, Hornbuckle would find the scenario ending with Askren once again on top and moving for dominant position. Askren ran through an array of dominant positions in the fight, from side control to mount to back mount and even head scissors at one point.
And those take downs! My god, Ben Askren seemed to be made of Dr Seuss' Oobleck as he clung to Hornbuckle's ankle, eating punches to the head and refusing to let go of the take down attempt. But Askren held on, rode out the storm and followed up with a beautiful leg trip take down that put Hornbuckle down for the first of many times in the fight.
Askren will move on to face Bellator welterweight champ, the undefeated Lymon Good. Good hits very hard from top position and is likely a better wrestler than Hornbuckle, but we'll see how he fares against Askren. He'll likely be much harder for Askren to put down than Hornbuckle was, but he'll likely end up on his back. Without Hornbuckle's formidable guard game, Good will likely be even easier prey for the fast rising Ben Askren. That is, unless Good can catch Askren coming in with a hard punch. Askren takes risks shooting in for unconventional take downs and Good is the kind of fighter who can hurt a man with a punch. It will be a fight to look forward to.
Askren has a huge upside as a martial artist. As I wrote earlier today, he epitomizes the type of the wrestler/grappler. Well known exponents of the style include #3 middleweight and #10 welterweight in the world in the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings Jake Shields, the former UFC #1 contender Renato "Babalu" Sobral, and Matt Hughes, the best welterweight in the history of the sport.
Tonight Askren showed he can more than handle a dangerous striker/grappler. Against Good he'll get to show how his wrestling/grappling hybrid works against a wrestler/striker who can implement a Chuck Liddell style sprawl and brawl game. Good will be looking to win on the feet or via ground and pound. Askren will be looking to get on top, control position and work for a submission. Should be a great fight.
I'll predict Askren to win. The big question from that is how long will he want to preside over Bellator before moving on up, and will he be able to escape the Bellator championship clause to get to the UFC?
-- video via purefight.org
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