Ben Askren Confident for Bellator 40 Fight with Nick Thompson, Expects Rick Hawn to Win Tournament
Ben Askren is itching to get back into the cage. After running through the Bellator welterweight tournament and eventually taking Lyman Good's title last year, the undefeated Askren is fully prepared for longtime veteran Nick Thompson next weekend at Bellator 40 in Newkirk, Oklahoma.
"I am just excited to have an opponent because they (Bellator) didn't tell me about an opponent until the middle of February," Askren told US Combat Sports. "I am excited to have someone who wants to fight me and mix it up."
Entering the matchup on April 9, Askren (7-0) once again finds himself pitted against an opponent who knows his way around the cage. Thompson, who has competed more than 50 times since turning professional in 2003, is one of the 170-pound division's most experienced veterans. But Askren doesn't expect that to matter come fight night.
"I haven't watched too much of his film but I've gotten the low-down from people who know fighting and have been around a long time and when it comes down to it I think I'm better in too many areas for him to really give me problems...I think obviously my wrestling is better, my grappling is better, my cardio is better, and I think I'll be stronger, so I think I'll have a lot of advantages in this fight."
Having relied upon his seemingly unstoppable takedowns and unorthodox grappling style to keep opponents glued to the canvas in the past, Askren expects to repeat the proven formula against Thompson in the upcoming non-title bout. However, he wouldn't mind giving the judges some much needed time off.
"The best guys in America can't stop my wrestling and I've wrestled with enough people to know that Nick Thompson will not stop me from taking him down," said Askren. "It will probably be similar to my last fights and my only hope is that I actually finish this one, but he has had 50 or so fights and he might be damn crafty and hard to choke out though. So I'm going to go out there, fight hard, push the pace and just look for the openings when I can to finish the fight."
Olympian Versus Olympian
Despite what happens against Thompson at Bellator 40, Askren will square off against the eventual winner of Bellator's Season 4 Welterweight Tournament later this year. With Lyman Good, Jay Hieron, Brent Weedman, and Rick Hawn having advanced to the semifinals, Askren is confident that the next organizational 170-pound title fight will feature two former Olympians.
"I've been picking Rick Hawn ever since the beginning," said Askren. "I think his Olympic pedigree says a lot about the type of competitor he is, and just like me he might not be as experienced as the other guys, but being good enough to make the Olympics means you're a tremendous competitor in whatever it is someone does. So I just think he'll be able to put his best foot forward and win the big fights even if he does lack some of the fighting credentials the other guys have."
But if Askren's pick pans out and the matchup formulates, the Wisconsin-born fighter expects his wrestling attack to negate Hawn's judo.
"I just think wrestling is more rounded and more disciplined than judo and on top of that I think he is quite a bit older, like 36 or 37, and I think that will give me another advantage in that fight."
Big Changes Looming?
With only two more fights left on his current Bellator contract, interested parties are beginning to suspect that Askren may be nearing an exit from his current promotion and inching closer to a shot in the UFC. But according to Askren, that decision has not yet been made.
"I'm going to let my manager deal with all that stuff. I am going to fight whoever they want me to fight and I'm going to just do what's best for me and I have zero concern about that."
Another rumor that has been swirling around Askren is the possibility of him changing training camps in the near future. While currently training at The Den in Arizona, the impending opening of the Askren Wrestling Academy in his hometown of Hartland, Wisconsin has caused many to infer that the welterweight could be headed back home in order to improve his striking under Duke Roufus. Even if true, Askren wasn't spilling the news just yet.
"I don't know," Askren laughed when asked if there was truth to the rumors. "I guess we'll just have to wait and find out."
Stay tuned to US Combat Sports for coverage of Bellator 40 and the welterweight battle between Thompson and Askren.