Ben Askren’s “Funky” Finish

Bellator Fighting Championships XIV
(Ryan Thomas protested his stoppage loss to Ben Askren at Bellator 14. Photo by Thomas M. Rozdzynski.)

Welterweight Ben Askren sometimes goes by the nickname “Funky,” and that’s exactly how his fight last night at Bellator 14 ended.

Funky.

Referee Dr. Jimmy Smith saw fit to call an end to the bout after Askren tied an anaconda choke on his opponent Ryan Thomas at 2:40 of the first round in a welterweight match at the Chicago Theatre. While Smith thought Thomas had gone limp, when Askren let go, Thomas bounced up off the canvas quickly, uncharacteristic of someone who might have been unconscious.

It didn’t matter to Askren, who offered little solace to Thomas. Though he looks mellow and laid back, Askren’s intensity dripped from his words.

“After looking at the replay, I had that choke on pretty tight, so you weren’t getting out of it, Ryan,” Askren says. “I gave you the benefit of the doubt in the ring, but after I saw the replay, it was pretty much over. So you might as well just admit that you lost.”

That take-no-prisoners attitude helped Askren to two NCAA national championships at the 170 pounds and to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. But even during his career at Mizzou, he already knew mixed martial arts was for him.

“You know, I love fighting and I don’t mind getting hit in the face,” Askren says. “It was just the natural progression for me.”

Against Thomas, Askren showed good proficiency with technical jiu jitsu submissions, at one point slapping on a couple of guillotines and a Peruvian necktie before finishing with the anaconda. He also momentarily got caught in an arm triangle but squirmed free. He might be learning quickly, but there’s nothing that’s not worth improving.

“I definitely have to work on my stand up for sure, but my jiu jitsu could be better, too,” Askren says. “But fighting in Bellator is great. The quality is good and it will only help me get better.”

Bellator 14 was Askren’s first “high-profile” fight, but the Wisconsin native knows more lies ahead.

“Sure, there are bigger leagues to go after down the line, I know that. But right now fighting in Bellator will let me continue to get better as a fighter.”

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