UFC

UFC: Where Ben Askren Fits at Welterweight

LAS VEGAS - JUNE 15:  Ben Askren (blue) wrestles Tyrone Lewis (red) in the Freestyle 74kg division championship match during the USA Olympic trials for wrestling and judo on June 15, 2008 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Neveda.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2013

Ben Askren is probably coming.

Like it or not, the dull, grinding stylings of the former Olympian could very well be on display in the octagon by the end of the year.

Please try to contain your enthusiasm.

To those who don't know, Askren is the reigning welterweight champion for Bellator and he's presently a dog without a home. His contract expired recently, making him a free agent. Given what Bellator president Bjorn Rebney recently pulled with Eddie Alvarez, it's easy to picture Rebney making an air quote gesture when saying "free agent," but you get the idea.

Askren is, as much as he can be, a free agent. And Rebney doesn't want him back.

That means the UFC could very well have itself a new undefeated face at 170 in need of promotion.

Askren, with his essentially unstoppable grappling attack, has romped the second-tier competition he's seen in Bellator. He's 12-0 and has very rarely been pushed at all.

So where does that place him in the UFC's 170-pound shark tank? Based on a couple of contributing factors, one would have to think near the back end of the top 10 at this point in time.

The argument against Askren is a simple one: He's been a big fish in a small pond for a long time. Since 2010, he's been grinding out the likes of Ryan Thomas and Andrey Koreshkov, and his only fight against a UFC-caliber guy was a tight split-decision win over non-contender Jay Hieron.

Even the staunchest supporter of Funky Ben can't point to his resume as support that he's an elite player at the UFC level. Take away the big belt he's given every time he wins and he's basically Matt Brown, a guy beating up prelim fighters with regularity.

On the flip side, an argument in Askren's favor is his history and the way he wins. He's succeeded at the highest levels as a wrestler, and he's almost never been challenged in his MMA career.

He's Jon Fitch on steroids (not literally), a guy who pursues the takedown at all costs and will break your will by dragging you into his world and keeping you there all night. Fitch made an alright life for himself in the UFC; there's little reason to think Askren couldn't as well.

Wrestling is a trump card in modern MMA, and Askren wields it as well as anyone in the sport. Outside of Georges St-Pierre, you'd need to see every other guy in the top 10 in the cage with Askren to say for sure that they're better than he is.

And so it is for Ben Askren, prospective UFC welterweight.

He's good, but no one knows yet just how good. He hasn't beaten top competition, but it's easy to see him doing it if given the chance.

All he has to do now is get a contract and slap his name on it. One way or another, the rest will take care of itself.

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