Ben Askren Begins Bellator Tournament Tonight
In what should prove to be the toughest challenge of his young mixed martial arts career, Wisconsin native Ben Askren will square off tonight against Ryan Thomas in the first round of the Bellator Fighting Championships’ welterweight tournament.
After making the transition from Olympic wrestler to mixed martial artist, Askren has cruised to three straight first round stoppages over Josh Flowers, Mitchell Harris, and Matt Delanoit. But tonight, the level of competition locked inside of the cage with him will greatly increase.
Ryan “The Tank Engine” Thomas will not only be the first opponent of Askren who currently holds a winning record, but also the first of Askren’s opponents that has legitimate experience. Thomas holds a professional record of 10-3, with his only three losses coming from current UFC veterans Matt Brown, Ben Saunders, and Jesse Lennox. But Askren isn’t worried in the slightest.
“He’s got experience in the MMA world but I’m not worried,” Askren told Wisconsin Combat Sports. “I’m not going to be scared when I step in the cage. I’ll be ready to scrap.”
Fueling the former Arrowhead wrestling sensation’s confidence is the stylistic matchup that he foresees in his upcoming bout with Thomas.
“I feel good about facing Thomas,” said Askren. “I hear that he’s a good wrestler, and if that’s his strongest suit, obviously he’s not going to beat me there. I also hear that submissions are strong for him, but he’s not going to beat me there either. So for me this is a really good matchup.”
Tonight’s test should paint a clearer picture as to Askren’s current MMA game. While many people throughout the country have anointed him as the sport’s next big star, others have argued that his less than stellar striking attack will limit his potential.
But for Askren, who works on his striking four to five times a week, his mat skills are what makes him so confident about his overall chances in Bellator’s initial welterweight tournament.
“I feel great about my chances of winning this tournament,” said Askren. “My wrestling and grappling are good enough to beat anybody.”
Wisconsin, and Bellator’s marketing department, hope so.
Photo courtesy of Bellator.com