Bellator Fighting Championships welterweight titleholder Ben Askren senses danger. The dynamite in Douglas Lima’s hands tends to have that effect on opponents.
Askren (9-0, 6-0 BFC) will put his unbeaten record and 170-pound crown on the line when he answers the surging Lima’s challenge at Bellator 64 on Friday at Caesars in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It will mark the second title defense for the 27-year-old, who captured promotional gold with a unanimous decision over Lyman Good in October 2010.
“I would not say that Douglas is one of the most dangerous fighters I have fought. I would definitely say he is the most dangerous fighter that I have ever fought,” Askren told Sherdog.com. “I guess Lyman was supposed to have some knockout power, but I really don’t think that any of my opponents that I fought were really big strikers. So, yeah, I would definitely say that Douglas is the most dangerous fighter I have ever fought, but I would not say he is the most well-rounded.”
Lima (21-4, 3-0 BFC), who has nearly three times as much professional MMA experience as Askren, will carry a nine-fight winning streak into their five-round duel. The 24-year-old American Top Team Atlanta export wowed the masses during the Bellator Season 5 welterweight tournament, scoring violent knockouts on Chris Lozano in the semifinals and Ben Saunders in the final. Askren was among those watching, albeit with a far more vested interest.
“What makes Douglas dangerous is the fact that he hits really hard,” he said. “He definitely made that obvious in his last two fights against Lozano and Saunders. Other than that, I’m really not that worried about too much. I’ve heard that he has really good jiu-jitsu, but I haven’t really seen much of it yet. Honestly, besides the fact that he hits really hard, I’m not really worried about anything with Douglas.
“Of course, I have to respect Douglas’ one-punch knockout power, but, in this sport, you have to respect that with anyone,” Askren added. “We’re wearing four-ounce gloves in there. It’s not like we’re wearing boxing gloves out there. Knockouts happen all the time in mixed martial arts. I think punching power is the one thing you have to respect no matter who you face in that cage.”
Askren will enter his encounter with Lima with a decided advantage in one vital area. He was a four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and two-time national champion at the University of Missouri, later competing at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
“There is no secret in this fight with Douglas as far as my game plan goes,” Askren said. “I’m going to do what I did with everyone else I have fought. I’m going to take him down, I’m going to put him on his back and I’m going to beat him up. I just hope I do it in a more dominant and violent fashion than ever before.”
Therein lies his dilemma: to emphasize merely winning or trying to look good doing it. Askren, like so many wrestling-centric figures in the sport, has come under fire for his lack of finishing prowess. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native has gone the distance in each of his last five outings, two of them five-rounders.
“I want to win this fight against Douglas in way more convincing fashion than in my last fight,” Askren said. “I also really want to go out there and get the finish. I have not been able to finish my opponent in a while now, so I really want to go out there and take Douglas out.
“Obviously, my number one objective is always to go out there and win, but getting the finish will be a nice little addition to that,” he added. “Also, fighting a five-round fight is a lot of work, so I would much rather go out there and finish this in one.”
To that end, Askren has placed his faith in the Roufusport camp in Milwaukee, where he has trained extensively under four-time world kickboxing champion Duke Roufus.
“I feel like I have made my biggest improvements in the striking department,” he said. “That’s why I moved out to Milwaukee to train with Duke. I’m out at Roufusport because it’s a great academy. I feel like my wrestling and my jiu-jitsu have been on point ever since I came to Bellator. It’s my striking that has needed improvement, and that’s what I’ve been working so hard on.”
Askren -- who last appeared in October, when he took a split decision from former International Fight League champion Jay Hieron at Bellator 56 -- wants to bring all his firepower to bear against Lima.
“I’m getting a lot more well-rounded in mixed martial arts, so, honestly, I feel like there are a lot of ways I could beat Douglas in this fight,” he said. “I feel like my jiu-jitsu is really good, especially with my chokes, and my hands are getting really dangerous, too. I’ve been working a lot more on my knees and my elbows, and I’ve just been gaining a lot more weapons training down at Roufusport. I’m picking up a lot more tools to hurt people with, so, obviously, that increases my odds in being able to hurt Douglas in this fight.”