November 20, 2019

"Funky" Ben Askren Came To the UFC Too Late, But He Still Made A Mark

By Adam Martin

On Monday, former Bellator MMA and ONE Championship welterweight champion Ben Askren announced his retirement from mixed martial arts. One half of the first-ever trade between promotions in MMA history, Askren decided to call it a career after being stopped in back-to-back fights by Jorge Masvidal and Demian Maia. He ends his MMA career with a 19-2, 1 NC record, including a 1-2 mark inside the Octagon.

Though Askren's tenure in the UFC lasted just a year, he made quite an impact during his time in the UFC. He was acquired via the first of its kind trade for former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson and was immediately tossed into the deep end of the promotion's welterweight division. The organizaton matched him up with former welterweight kingpin Robbie Lawler in his first UFC fight, and he ended up surviving an early barrage by Lawler to win the fight in controversial fashion via bulldog choke.


In his second UFC bout, the promotion matched him up against Masvidal in what was billed as a fight between top contenders at 170 lbs. But unfortunately for Askren, he ended up on the wrong side of the fastest KO in UFC history, getting knocked out cold by a flying knee in only five seconds. Still, Askren was determined to get back into the UFC welterweight title picture, and three months later took on Maia in his third fight in the Octagon. But that one didn't go well either, as he was submitted by the BJJ expert in the main event of UFC Singapore.

The Maia fight ended up being Askren's last, as he officially hung up his gloves for good. Askren cited both the losses and his need for hip replacement surgery as his reasons for retiring. And though he ends his UFC stint with just a 1-2 record, there's no doubt his three fights brought a lot of excitement to the sport, and even with a sub .500 Octagon record, one can still make the argument that Askren's time in the UFC was a success.


At the same time, though, we never got to see a prime Askren in the UFC. He spent his best years toiling for the Bjorn Rebney-led Bellator, and then he went to ONE. UFC fans didn't get to see Askren at his best, and we never got to see what Askren could do against the best fighters in the world when he was at his best. Had Askren come to the UFC after he was released by Bellator five years ago, he likely would have had a much better run in the UFC. Unfortunately, he entered the UFC at the tail end of his career and just wasn't as competitive as he could have been.

Still, I'd argue that Askren had a successful UFC run overall, and I still think that the UFC won the Askren vs. Johnson trade. Askren didn't win the title, and he was on the wrong end of some nasty stoppages, but he got people talking, and that counts for a lot. It's too bad Askren and UFC President Dana White couldn't see eye-to-eye earlier, but for better or worse, Askren was able to give us one very memorable year inside the UFC, and his impact will be felt for many years.



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