The ability to control your own destiny and dictate your path to greatness is something very few people in this world will ever experience—and that is what makes Bellator’s tournament format so exciting.
It’s not about whether or not you are a 'name' amongst the casual fans. It’s all about whether or not you can bring it in the cage. Dan Hornbuckle and Ben Askren have proven just that over the course of the Bellator season two welterweight tournament.
On Thursday June 17th, Hornbuckle and Askren will meet in the Kansas City Power & Light District to determine who will challenge Bellator season one winner and welterweight champion Lyman Good this fall.
“I feel great about kicking Askren’s ass,” Hornbuckle told Bleacher Report when asked about how it felt to be in the finals.
Currently riding a six-fight win streak—all finishes—including back-to-back first round submission victories in the tournament, Hornbuckle has reason to be extremely confident, but he credits his Native American heritage as playing a key role in keeping him grounded and focused on the task at hand.
“It’s helped me come up by giving me perspective and focus on what we are fighting for. Some wouldn’t 'understand' the energy that is behind that. I’m fighting with a lot of positive energy, with my family and my ancestors and the whole reservation itself.
“It helps keep me focused and helps me to continue to train hard to be the best at what I’m doing.”
Heading into the fight with Askren, one thing really jumps off the page when comparing the two—experience. Hornbuckle has been in four times the amount of fights that Askren has and that disparity between the two could end up playing a key role in the outcome of this matchup.
“I think it's going to play a little bit of a factor in it. He’s got the wrestling experience for a long time so that is going to be a little bit of an equalizer in it, but at the same time it’s an MMA fight with punches, knees, and elbows.
"We’re in the finals so we’re allowed to throw elbows and that’s another aspect. But I think experience is going to take its toll.”
While Askren may not have a wealth of MMA experience, he is a uniquely talented wrestler whose years of experience and success at the highest levels of the sport make him an extremely difficult and dangerous matchup.
“Well you’re talking about American Top Team and if they don’t have what you need they go out and get what you need,” Hornbuckle said when asked to prepare for a wrestler of Askren’s caliber.
“The caliber of wrestlers that we have at ATT is, in my opinion, better than Askren when it comes to competition. We’ve got guys in our corner who have followed, been through, and beaten Askren so we’ve got our ducks in a row where we are at right now.
“Am I prepared to fight from my back? Absolutely! We’ll see how I fight from my back IF it gets there.”
Even though Hornbuckle is not underestimating his opponent, he is confident that Askren will just be another bump in the road to his shot at the Bellator title and Lyman Good.
“He’s definitely just another guy—just another canvas for me to work a masterpiece on.
“When it comes to skill sets, I will never underestimate another athlete with his wrestling pedigree, but at the same time he has to combine that wrestling with what else?
“Ryan Thomas is a training partner of mine back home and it seemed like Thomas was giving him some fits on the ground so we will see how that holds out.”