The most dominant Bellator champion may not be the promotion’s most skilled.

In his seven promotional fights, Ben Askren has walked away victorious each time and has defended his belt successfully twice. However, people wouldn’t say that he is well-rounded, but would consider him more of a one-trick pony because of his wrestling.

But if you’re going to have one trick, it may as well be that ability that the welterweight champion holds. Askren wrestled for the United States in the 2008 Olympics, which is more than believable considering the way he takes down his opponents and keeps them down with relative ease.

Wrestling got him to this point, so it only makes sense that it has been his bread and butter in the cage, being the major contributing factor to him continuing his winning ways. But at what point does “Funky” need to evolve beyond just wrestling and prove that he can do more. After all, the sport is called mixed martial arts for a reason. Back in the sports infancy, matches were based on the fantasy aspect of who would win between a great striker and a great grappler, and with Askren so focused and so successful with his wrestling, it begs the question as to how long he can keep the title simply with wrestling, rather than with an arsenal of abilities.

Take, for example, No. 1 welterweight contender Karl Amoussou. He won the welterweight tournament of the promotion’s sixth season, giving him the title shot. But it wasn’t so much that he won the tournament, but rather how he won it. Two of the three tournament victories were submission victories, and pretty convincing ones at that. If you watch the tournament finale against Bryan Baker, you can see the French fighter quickly slap an inverted heel hook on Baker in what is an extremely small window of opportunity.

That is one of the biggest differences between the champion and the No. 1 contender. Askren appears fine in riding out a victory, whereas Amoussou will pounce on an opportunity to end the fight. But with that being said, “Funky” will exit the Bellator cage the champion on Thursday. His wrestling will smother the French fighter en route to another decision victory.

Even though the next No. 1 contender has been determined with Andrey Koreshkov emerging victorious in the season-seven tournament, looking ahead to the field of season-eight fighters to play matchmaker against the current champion is a difficult task. The tournament consists of one previous tournament champion, Douglas Lima, who already has lost to Askren, and prior tournament finalists Ben Saunders and Brent Weedman.

The champion dominated Lima, 50-45 on all three judges’ scorecards, based on the aforementioned wrestling. Askren would absolutely demolish him again. “Killa B” struggled against Jon Fitch during his stint in the UFC and couldn’t avoid the takedown from Baker in their bout two seasons ago.

That leaves Weedman, who has been bouncing between welterweight and lightweight over the last couple of seasons, and considering that this means that “Southern Boy” is undersized, the champion should have no problem throwing him around and dominating him with his wrestling.

Unless the Russian Koreshkov is able to unseat the champion, it looks as though any contender that Bellator can produce in the foreseeable future will come up short. Askren should be able to keep his title for quite some time, using his dominant wrestling skills to turn back all challengers. Hopefully, for Askren’s sake, he doesn’t get too comfortable in defending his title in this manner and works on some of the other disciplines of the sport in the meantime, because eventually he will square off with someone who can defend the takedown.

Photo: Ben Askren (top) hopes to retain his welterweight strap (Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.