Ben Askren, NCAA wrestling champ and Olympian who went on to become a mixed martial arts titlewinner, will make his debut at the top of the card in One Fighting Championship’s ONE FC 16 “Honor and Glory” event in Singapore May 30, the MMA organization announced Monday.
Askren’s opponent will be Bakhtiyar Abbasov, an experienced judo and combat sambo star from the eastern European country of Azerbaijan.
Askren, 29, will put his perfect 12-0 professional MMA record up against Abbasov’s 11-2 mark which includes a nine-match win streak. Of the 28-year-old Azerbaijani’s 11 victories, five were by knockout or TKO, five by submission, and just one by decision.
In describing Abbasov in its announcement of the ONE FC 16 event in Singapore, One Fighting Championships said, “He has defeated the best in Europe and has decided to come to Asia in search of new challenges. He will get all he can handle in wrestling legend Askren. The balanced knockouts and submission victories on his record is a testament to his versatility and predatory instincts, which will come in handy as he tries to become the first man in history to defeat Askren in a mixed martial arts bout.”
ONE FC also reported that Abbasov has traditionally competed as a middleweight who has set his sights on the organization’s welterweight division.
Askren, Abbasov analyze each other
When asked about Abbasov, Askren admitted he didn’t know much about his opponent, then addressed the issue of his opponent dropping down a weight class, saying, "I'm not really worried about the weight factor. Usually with guys who have never made a lower weight, it's more of an issue for them than an advantage."
According to TodayOnline.com, Askren was originally scheduled to face Nobutatsu Suzuki. But the Japanese fighter dropped out after failing to recover from an injury sustained in his win over American Brock Larson in Kuala Lumpur last month.
“I don’t really care who they put in front of me," said the former Mizzou mat champ. "He (Abbasov) presents a different challenge, but it will be the same end result. He’s not going to be able to stop my takedowns, and with the ONE FC unified rules, I will have more liberty to finish him. I think I can implement a smart game plan (that is) also cerebral to finish the bout once I sense the opportunity.”
ONE FC’s rules allow kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent, techniques banned under UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) and Bellator Fighting Championships were Askren was once welterweight champ.
Abbasov said: “I will out-strike Askren and I am taking his undefeated record away.”
In revealing the thinking behind the Askren-Abbasov bout, ONE FC CEO Victor Cui said, “We signed Abbasov in March and were presented with an amazing opportunity to match up two of the most impressive winning streaks in the division against each other. This bout will set the entire MMA world abuzz with excitement.”
“An upset can happen ... A victory over Askren will be the largest in Abbasov’s career and make him a frontrunner for a title opportunity in the future,” Cui added.
Back in December 2013, Askren announced he has signed with Singapore-based mixed martial arts organization One Fighting Championships (ONE FC).
Askren told “The MMA Hour” that his ONE FC deal is for two years and six fights.
Launched in September 2011, ONE FC has held 13 events since its inception on Sept. 13, 2011. According to onefc.com , the organization has 17 welterweight fighters on its roster, including reigning champion Adam Shahir Kayoom.
A native of Wisconsin, Ben Askren was a four-time NCAA All-American at Missouri, winning national titles in 2006 and 2007. He also was a member of the U.S. freestyle team competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.In addition to his MMA career, Askren is actively involved with the new Agon Wrestling venture, both as a matchmaker and as a competitor, defeating Penn State two-time champ Quentin Wright in the main event of Agon Wrestling I: The Revolution in Las Vegas in October… then, in January, beat former University of Illinois wrestler Mike Poeta at Agon Wrestling III: Festival of Funk at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Fans unable to make it to Singapore will be able to watch the Askren-Abbasov bout – and other matches at ONE FC 16 – via live streaming at the organization’s website for $9.99.