By: Jesse Donathan
It only took top UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal 5-seconds to send Ben Askren into the stratosphere Saturday night in route to the fastest KO in UFC history.
The second straight fighter baptized under fire by Masvidal this year, Jorge’s most recent destruction of Askren comes on the heels of the American Top Team representative flatlining former UFC title contender Darren Till at UFC Fight Night 147 back in March. A definitive victory for Masvidal, the impressive stoppage was quickly over shadowed by a now infamous backstage altercation between Masvidal and surging UFC prospect Leon Edwards.
In defeat, Askren falls to 19-1 overall, 1-1 in the UFC. The fight was over before it even got started. Seemingly unprepared for the same blitzkrieg offensive Masvidal launched in his initial volley against Till, Askren was caught dead to rights, diving for a takedown as Masvidal launched a beautifully executed flying knee that connected flush to the head of the unprepared “Funky” one. Askren was out cold, brutally knocked out in absolutely devastating fashion. The deck had been stacked against Askren from day one, long before he ever stepped foot inside the Octagon and unfortunately his day of reckoning had arrived.
“What was expressed to me by the UFC brass was that you need to get rid of your matching clause,” Askren told Joe Rogan on the Joe Rogan Experience back in January of 2018. A Bellator welterweight champion at the time, the goal of all professional mixed martial artists is to compete for the world’s premiere mixed martial arts organization. But with Askren under contract with Bellator, with a reported 12-month matching promotional grace period; the former Olympian was caught between a rock and a hard place.
According to Askren the UFC told him to get rid of his matching clause and they would make him an offer, but until then they were unable to negotiate any further. Not wanting to sit out 12-months in order to navigate the waters of the promotional matching clause grace period, Askren requested and received his release from Bellator under former President Bjorn Rebney. Askren would go on to recount to Rogan how once his paper work was finalized, and his manager faxed over the Bellator release documents to UFC headquarters the unthinkable occurred. The UFC reversed course 180-degrees on Askren as UFC President Dana White then came out publicly and stated the UFC was no longer interested in signing the now former Bellator champion.
It was as ruthless of a business decision in the sport of mixed martial arts as you’re ever going to see, the UFC eliminated one of Bellator’s top champions and effectively branded him as a second-rate fighter not good enough to compete on the world’s biggest stage in one fell swoop. Enter Askren’s impressive run through the Singapore based ONE Fighting Championship where he became their welterweight champion in short order while still maintaining a perfect undefeated record.
Finally, some six-years later, Askren would finally make his way to the UFC via a groundbreaking, blockbuster trade deal that saw the UFC send former perennial flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson to ONE in exchange for the rights to Askren. It was a shocking announcement from the UFC, both because such a trade deal had never been done before and because it involved sending one of the UFC’s greatest talents in “Mighty Mouse” Johnson to ONE Championship for Ben Askren, a fighter who had long deserved to fight in the UFC but whom had essentially been black listed by the promotion for many years.
According to a November 4, 2018 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Dana White says bringing Ben Askren to the UFC was ‘a great deal for me’,” author Dave Doyle writes that, “We just talked, this guy thinks I hate him,” White said of Askren during the UFC 230 post-fight press conference at New York’s Madison Square Garden.” The UFC President would go on to be quoted as stating, “If I hated you, why would I do this deal? I’m the one who did this deal, I’m the one who came up with this deal. This was my idea. Why would I do this if I hated you so bad and didn’t want you to be here?”
The answer to that question would be soon be found in Askren’s next two scheduled opponents under the UFC banner as the former 2008 Beijing Olympian would be introduced to two of the UFC’s most fierce competitors in “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler and “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal. Askren wasn’t sent to general population, instead, he was taken to cell block D on death row to meet the most dangerous fighters the UFC had under promotional contract in the welterweight division.
“Before the fight, Masvidal made a promise: “The universe has chosen me to make things right and correct this mistake known as Ben Askren,” writes the NY Daily News’s Dennis Young. It was a curious statement from “Gamebred,” who one would think had little interest in who the UFC signed under contract or not. Their job is to line them up, his job is to knock them down.
In the lead up to the fight, a promotional dream unfolded as Masvidal and Askren jawed back and forth with each other through the media and social media platforms. The fight quickly became among the most anticipated on an absolutely stacked UFC 239 card and ultimately unfolded in devastating fashion following a series of entertaining fights in Vegas Saturday night.
Starting the fight with his hands behind his back, goading Askren to come forward, Masvidal quickly changed gears and flew across the cage launching a flying knee attack that obliterated Askren where he stood on his feet. The former Bellator and ONE FC welterweight champion collapsed to the canvas unconscious, but not before eating two more violent shots from Masvidal as referee Jason Herzog stepped in to call a halt to the action. Askren was stiff as a board as Masvidal taunted and mocked his badly hurt opponent. It was a vulgar display of power from “Gamebred” who had taken exception with how Askren had promoted the fight in the lead up to their bout at UFC 239. “I gave him what he deserved,” Masvidal told BT Sport’s Caroline Pearce during a post-fight interview following the contest.
According to a 2018 ESPN report, Askren was fully under the impression the UFC had brought him to lose. Originally maligned by the organization six years ago, the UFC acquired the formerly retired Askren only after he had hung his gloves up and called it a day in mixed martial arts. Following the obliteration at the hands of Masvidal, “Funky” was seen being helped to the back looking concussed and badly hurt after the fight. “He’s good, White said about Askren,” in an update on his condition according to MMAFighting.com. “All of his stuff came back negative so he’s OK. I’m sure he’s not okay [with the loss] but he’s [good enough],” said White.
Assuming the reports are true, and Askren is indeed OK following his trip behind the woodshed it is entirely possible the world hasn’t seen the last of Ben Askren. Quite capable of making a come back and acquiring the belt, Ben will need to get his priorities in order if he hopes to continue to make a run for the title in the UFC’s welterweight division. Though its entirely possible at this point his next opponent will be Francis Ngannou at the rate things are currently going for Ben Askren.