Askren Victorious, But Not Without Controversy
Thursday’s fight against Ryan Thomas was supposed to be the first time that Ben Askren was tested inside of the cage, but after an early and confusing referee stoppage, the Wisconsinite kept his undefeated streak alive.
Coming into Bellator’s first welterweight tournament bout, Askren was confident that his wrestling and grappling skills would be more than enough to best his more experienced opponent. His confidence ultimately proved correct, but the fight was not without controversy.
The action began with Thomas landing a quick combination of punches to the chin of Askren. Understanding that his striking has not fully evolved to the point of exchanging with a UFC veteran, Askren immediately used his Olympic wrestling to secure a takedown.
On the ground, Thomas used a quick rubberguard that he smoothly transitioned into a deep triangle choke. Using his strength, Askren was able to pull his head from the choke and then attempt a beautiful Brabo choke that he couldn’t quite finish.
With Thomas now on top, Askren quickly demonstrated his improving jiu jitsu ability with a picture-perfect sweep and the repositioning of the fight into the center of the cage. Once in the middle, Askren locked in an anaconda choke and waited until the ref halted the fight at 2:40 into the first round.
Immediately after the fight was stopped, Thomas bewilderingly stared at the official and explained that he had not tapped. After viewing the replay, it was clear that Thomas did not tap, and was never unconscious.
Later that night, the ref would defend his decision by saying that the sunk was in very deep, and when he asked Thomas to give him a sign that he was alright, he received no such indication.
With Thomas visibly upset, calling it “the worst call I’ve ever seen”, he asked for Bellator to give him a rematch with Askren. The night’s winner later said he would have no problem with a rematch, even in his home state of Wisconsin.
“You know, I locked it (the choke) up, I had it tight, I don’t know what the ref saw he didn’t tap out, I know that,” Askren said. “It’s the refs call though.
“It was a good win, um, I’ll rematch again with him I don’t care, any day of the week. He can come to Phoenix we can fight next Tuesday, Milwaukee, we can fight any day of the week.”
While probably not the way Askren envisioned his first fight on national television, the reality is that he was victorious over a proven veteran. He was able to avoid Thomas’ striking advantage, and use his dominant wrestling and grappling to become victorious in the first round of the welterweight tournament.
Next up for Askren, besides his honeymoon after his marriage last Friday, will be the second round of the tournament. And has he has said in numerous interviews, he doesn’t care who he faces.