With Wrestling Mastered, Askren Wants to Punch Better

By Joe Hall Oct 25, 2010
Ben Askren (top) vs. Lyman Good: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com

Ben Askren delivered a dominant wrestling performance Thursday en route to winning the Bellator welterweight title. Now he wants to develop a striking game that would help him finish opponents like former champ Lyman Good, who battled him for the full 25 minutes.

“I’ve only been punching stuff for about a year. Literally,” said Askren, who wrestled in the 2008 Olympics. “I didn’t start boxing or hitting anything until September of 2009. I heard [Good’s] corner taunting me with, ‘He punches like a girl.’ Maybe I do now, but I ain’t always going to punch like a girl. There’s a lot of places that I can get better. I can punch harder. I can finish better on top.”

Askren repeatedly passed into mount, but he couldn’t put Good away. He tried an arm-triangle choke in the first that Good used to reverse position. Through the later rounds Askren chose to pepper his opponent from mount rather than risk losing position.

“It may not be the most exciting strategy, but it’s a solid strategy,” Askren said. “I was landing blows and staying busy.”

At one point in the fourth round, though, referee Kevin Mulhall stepped in while Askren had mount and restarted the fight on the feet. Askren said he’d never seen a fighter stood up from mount.

“If you’re active, they’re not supposed to stand you up, especially in such a dominant position,” Askren said. “I didn’t really understand that, but you can’t take a second to dwell on that. … I got back up and said, ‘OK, gotta take him down again.’ Didn’t really dwell on it at all.”

The takedowns were there for Askren all night long. Even if Good stopped the initial drive, he couldn’t prevent the follow-ups. Still, Good fought to the end and nearly stole the fight. With less than two minutes remaining, he drilled Askren with an upkick and squeezed a triangle choke on the stunned fighter. Askren eventually escaped.

“The upkick didn’t really hurt at all, but the triangle was close,” Askren acknowledged. “It was fairly tight, but I just kept fighting. I knew I wasn’t going to tap. That just wasn’t going to happen.”

The kick looked like it hurt. By the end of the fight, Askren’s face was bruised and swollen. He might not have finished his opponent, but the 26-year-old relative newcomer to MMA had earned 25 minutes’ worth of valuable experience.

“I’m pretty happy with my performance,” Askren said. “I knew one time in my career I’d have to go the full five rounds and show people what kind of heart I had. I’m just glad people got to see that I got heart. Didn’t I tell them I won’t stop?”
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