Ben Askren kept his hold on the One Championship welterweight crown but not under the circumstances he desired.
An inadvertent but devastating thumb to the eye left challenger Luis Santos unable to continue in the One Championship 26 “Valor of Champions” headliner on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Philippines. The blow took the steam out of the entire show, resulted in an unsatisfied crowd and led to a no-contest 2:19 into round one.
Santos held his own until the foul. The well-traveled 35-year-old Brazilian shut down a takedown attempt from the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler and countered by sending a head kick in Askren’s direction, forcing him to disengage. The former Olympian was not dissuaded, however, and during a later exchange accidentally gouged Santos in the right eye with his left thumb while closing the distance on a body-lock takedown. After an extended delay, “Sapo” informed the referee he could not see, resulting in the no-contest.
Askren (14-0) remains undefeated. Santos (61-9-1) remains titleless.
In the bantamweight co-main event, Evolve MMA’s Mark Striegl submitted Casey Suire with a first-round rear-naked choke. Suire (5-1), who had never before been beaten, asked out of the match 3:48 into round one. Striegl (14-1) has rebounded from his first professional defeat with back-to-back submission wins.
Meanwhile, Phuket Top Team export Anatpong Bunrad took a split decision from Geje Eustaquio in a contentious three-round showdown at 125 pounds. The 28-year-old Bunrad (5-1) has rattled off three straight victories. Eustaquio (6-4) has lost two in a row.
Elsewhere, Eugene Toquero took care of Brianata Rosadhi with a volley of first-round elbows in their featured flyweight encounter. Rosadhi (1-2) met his end 3:41 into round one, as he suffered his second setback in as many outings. Toquero (7-1) will carry a modest two-fight winning streak into his next appearance.
In other action, Lakay MMA’s Edward Kelly (6-2) submitted Jimmy Yabo (4-1) with a rear-naked choke 4:05 into the first round of their featherweight clash; Evolve MMA representative Amir Khan (3-1) put away Bashir Ahmad (3-2) on the advice of the cageside physician 3:20 into the third round of their battle at 150 pounds; Xiao Yang Liu (2-2) knocked out Nicholas Lee (3-3) 1:59 into round one of their flyweight tilt; and Ya Wei Wang (2-1) dispatched Sunoto Peringkat (2-1) with punches 81 seconds into round three of their scrap at 145 pounds.