MMA: Ben Askren ready to exert control in Singapore

Ben Askren fending off a kick from Brazil's Luis Santos at their One Championship bout two years ago. The American - a former Olympic wrestler - will take on Malaysian Agilan Thani next Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Ben Askren fending off a kick from Brazil's Luis Santos at their One Championship bout two years ago. The American - a former Olympic wrestler - will take on Malaysian Agilan Thani next Friday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.PHOTO COURTESY OF ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Undefeated US fighter confident his fighting style will propel him to victory in Singapore

It may have been over a year since mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Ben Askren's last fight, but the world welterweight champion remains confident of extending his unbeaten record when he defends his title at One Championship's Dynasty of Heroes event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium next Friday.

In fact, the American is sure he will take less than five minutes to knock Malaysia's Agilan Thani out.

Speaking to The Straits Times in a phone interview from his Wisconsin base yesterday, Askren said: "The result's going to be a technical knockout somewhere three to four minutes into the fight."

The 32-year-old, who has a 15-0 win-loss record, last fought in April last year, when he beat Russia's Nikolay Aleksakhin by unanimous decision at the One Championship Global Rivals event in Manila.

Thani, 21, is also unbeaten in his professional career (7-0), but an undaunted Askren is sure this will change after the May 26 bout.

Revealing that he had watched three minutes of Thani fighting, Asken added: "That was enough for me to know he can't stop me from doing what I want to do, and that's what my fighting style is based on - imposing my will on my opponents, not conquering their moves.

"He's young, he's coming up and he might be great someday, but I keep telling people May 26 is not going to be his day - May 26 is going to be a very tough day in the life of Agilan Thani."

He has reason to be confident. The American, a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I wrestling champion, also represented his country in the sport at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

OOZING CONFIDENCE

He might be great someday, but I keep telling people May 26 is not going to be his day - May 26 is going to be a very tough day in the life of Agilan Thani.

BEN ASKREN, One Championship fighter, starting the trash talk against his Malaysian opponent early.

He believes it is this background in wrestling that has propelled his MMA career, as it has afforded him a greater control in his fights.

Referring to his NCAA and Olympic experience, he said: "There are not many people with that level of wrestling in MMA anywhere in the world. It allows me to control where the fight is, whether to stand or be on the ground, and it allows me to control my opponents once they get to the ground."

Raring to get back in the cage and "kick some butt", Askren said he has not done anything differently in his training over the past year.

Stressing that there is "absolutely nothing secret" in his training plan, he added: "I'm just training myself to be the best fighter that I can be.

"I want to be the best fighter in the world and that means being able to beat everybody who is the same (level) as me."

Askren's showdown with Thani is one of two co-main events next Friday.

The other will see atomweight champion Angela Lee take on Brazilian challenger Istela Nunes, a two-time muay thai world champion.

Weighing in on the women's fight, Askren tipped Lee, who is of Singaporean and Korean descent, to win.

"Istela Nunes is a good stand-up fighter, but Angela is really well-rounded," he said. "She can fight everywhere, and I can see the fight going her way."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Askren ready to exert his control'. Print Edition | Subscribe