Simply put: if Ben Askren gets signed by the UFC, he will not fare as well as he did in Bellator.

Although Askren was dominating the welterweight division in Bellator, there was often speculation as to how he would do on the biggest stage of them all, the Octagon. For all intents and purposes, the UFC is the premier MMA promotion in the world, and in order to maintain that level of excellence, the promotion needs to acquire the top free agents on the market, including Askren.

During his time in Bellator, Askren went 9-0, held the 170-pound championship and defended the title four times. He has yet to lose in his professional career, and a lot of that has to do with his dominant ground game. The University of Missouri product developed into a high-caliber wrestler while at college, and that has translated to his mixed martial arts career. But as dominant as his wrestling is, it tends to be the major target on his back when people express doubt in him and his abilities.

Back in the day, it was the norm for people to enter the cage as a one-trick pony. After all, it was the premise on which the sport was initially based. But 20 years later, the sport has evolved past fighters who are only capable of one thing into fighters who are solid everywhere despite having one or two specialties. Anyone who has seen an Askren fight is aware of how he relies on his wrestling to smother his opponents. It may bore some, including UFC President Dana White, but it has been extremely effective.

If we pretend that the UFC indeed does go out and acquire the free agent despite White’s criticisms and stated denial of any intent to bring Askren into the fold, we can go as far as to speculate how Askren will do inside the Octagon. Based on a number of factors, it doesn’t look like he would do very well.

There were a number of things working for the former Olympic wrestler in his old digs in the Bellator cage, such as lesser competition. Although Bellator has its fair share of great fighters, the depth comparison with the UFC doesn’t match up. However, that isn’t necessarily the biggest thing that worked in Askren’s favor. The matchmaking difference between the two companies differ tremendously, and it’s there that Askren benefitted the most.

With the UFC, there is a matchmaker—Joe Silva, in the case of the welterweights—who sits down and pairs fighters to square off based on a number of factors. It is no secret that “Funky” likes to work for the quick takedown, but how would he do against someone who is specifically chosen for him and who has strong takedown defense or an elite jiu-jitsu game to work submissions off of the back? How would he do against another top wrestler who would be capable of flipping the script and actually putting him on his back?

In Bellator, there was nobody that was specifically chosen to match up against him, and therefore nobody who fit that mold. Rather, there was just the next man up in the tournament or, once he captured the belt, the next tournament champion to earn a shot against him. As history has proven, anything can happen in these Bellator tournaments. When you ask fighters to fight three times in three months, the tournament favorite rarely emerges as the victor. This can often lead to a fighter who isn’t best suited to take on the champion. Yes, the fighter earned the title shot, but their skill set may make for a horrible match-up for the title bout.

This element of the fight game is by far the biggest variable as to how Askren would do if he were acquired by the UFC. He won’t enjoy the benefit of mismatches against opponents who cannot counter his wrestling, and that means he’ll have to work harder to earn his victories.

By no means is Askren incapable of succeeding in the UFC. He is a strong mixed martial artist and would be capable of making proper adjustments and evolving. However, he has a long way to go until he would even be considered on the same level as the men at the top of the promotion’s welterweight division.

Even if he wins his UFC debut fight, assuming the UFC does indeed bring him in, look for his perfect record to quickly disappear once he enters the Octagon.

Photo: Ben Askren (Keith Mills/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.

  • brian

    Or he gets the belt

    • brian

      Hendricks is about the only guy in the division who can wrestle with Askren thats a tough matchup for him he walks through the rest of the division

      • brian

        He would clown GSP