Who First For Ben Askren?
By Nick Long
Last week, history was made in the mixed martial arts world.
It all started when undefeated, two-time welterweight champion Ben Askren (18-0), answered a fans question on Twitter. A question that had been asked thousands upon thousands of times before in one way or another….. “Are you going to fight in the UFC…. Can you give a % on it?” a question that had never fully been answered, until now. Mere miniutes later, Askren had replied with a short, but oh so sweet answer…. “98%”.
Just a few short days later, the fans got the confirmation they had been pining for years, but no one could have possibly predicted the manner in which Ben would make the move to the UFC, not in the wildest of dreams could we have foreseen that Ben Askren would move to the UFC from ONE Championship, in a deal that would see flyweight and pound for pound king, Demetrious Johnson (27-3) go the other way.
As the dust settles on this historic announcement, we take a look at the possible opponents Ben could face on his UFC debut.
Colby Covington (14-1) / Tyron Woodley (19-3)
With these two 170lbers set to face off at some point in early 2019, this one is already looking doubtful.
It would be an incredibly long sit out for Askren to make his debut, he could be looking at up to a year until he could possibly face the winner of this fight. However, the odds of the top UFC brass blessing Ben with a title shot for his debut are slim to none. If anything, we would be looking at him facing whoever comes up short in this fight, even then, it is an incredibly long way off and I would be expecting Ben to take a fight long before this.
There is a strong possibility that if successful in his debut, the loser of this fight could be his following opponent however, which gives reason to allow some small excitement to sink in at the prospect of that.
No matter which one of these two men he could face, it would be a battle of who has the higher pedigree in wrestling, with all three men boasting a skill set based around a dominant, aggresive, wrestling style.
Regardless if this would be Ben’s debut or some time down the line, it would be a must see spectical.
Georges St-Pierre (26-2)
Is there ever a high-profile 170lb fight discussed, without GSP being rumoured or mentioned in some form?
Well, he has every reason to be mentioned in such lofty heights, a two division world champion who is often referred to as the true greatest of all time (GOAT), it’s no surprise the welterweight kingpin has had his name thrown into the hat for Askren’s debut.
However, it’s also the exact reason why I feel this fight has absolutely no chance of being Ben’s first. Tyron Woodley, the current 170lb champion and possibly best welterweight since Georges himself, has yet to even face GSP.
If one of the more dominant champions in all of the UFC can’t get the attention of St-Pierre long enough to even discuss a fight, the odds of Askren being of interest are very fine. It’s far too high risk for such a low reward, what would GSP really gain from beating a debutant? Even if they do come with a solid reputation, reputation alone would not be enough to tempt him into this one.
Stephen Thompson (14-3)
Stephen Thompson has made a career out of giving his opponents headaches at their inability to hit him, a fast, skillful counter striker, this could possibly be the worst matchup for Ben. I also feel it is the most likely option on this list.
At the time of writing this he is ranked #4 in the welterweight rankings, currently not booked and after his loss to Darren Till in May, is not in a position to be asking for a title shot or top contender. The perfect man to welcome Askren to the UFC.
Stylistically, it would be a real test for Ben to really stamp his name on the division. Lets not forget that Wonderboy has fought current champ Tyron Woodley, twice. Two fights that were technical chess matches, either fighter uneasy on making the first move.
After a majority draw first time around, Woodley was able to secure a majority decision the second time, but make no mistake abbout it, Thompson gave Woodley two incredibly hard fights, possibly the hardest he has had in his entire reign to date. What better way for Askren to make a mark, than to dominate the man who the current champ struggled with most?
It is for that reason that I feel this is the fight that should be made, and will be made.
Regardless of who Askren does face in his debut, it is becoming crystal clear that this is not a debut to be missed.