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Two-time NCAA champ Ben Askren makes successful debut with ONE FC

Only his head of hair visible, Ben Askren submits Bakhtiyar Abbasov in his ONE FC debut
Only his head of hair visible, Ben Askren submits Bakhtiyar Abbasov in his ONE FC debut
Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Ben Askren, two-time NCAA wrestling champ and 2008 Olympian who has built a perfect record in mixed martial arts (MMA), extended his win streak to 13-0 with a successful debut at One Fighting Championship’s ONE FC 16 “Honor and Glory” event in Singapore Friday.

Askren scored a first-round submission of Bakhtiyar Abbasov, an experienced judo and combat sambo star from the eastern European country of Azerbaijan, with a tight arm-triangle choke at 4:21.

A number of MMA websites used the words “surprising” and “shocking” to describe the opening of the welterweight match. Steven Rondina of BleacherReport.com wrote, “The first few seconds, shockingly, saw the Azerbaijani nail a takedown on Askren and take his back.” MMAJunkie.com’s Mike Bohn said, “Abbasov surprised Askren when he shot for a takedown in the first 10 seconds of the contest. While that’s an impressive feat in itself, the move ultimately led to his demise.”

Within seconds of being taken down, the former University of Missouri mat star, “immediately reversed the position and proceeded to subject (Abbasov) to a grappling and ground-and-pound clinic,” in the words of Sherdog.com’s James Goyder.

The rest of the bout saw Askren deliver a seemingly endless stream of punches to his opponent’s head, while the referee repeatedly asked Abbasov if he wanted to submit.

The loss for Abbasov broke his nine-match win streak. He now falls to 11-3, while Askren is now 13-0.

After the match, Askren questioned Abbasov’s decision to go for an immediate takedown, saying, “You don’t go into the spider’s web because you’re going to get beat down. What was he thinking?”

Later, Askren posted this message on his @Benaskren Twitter account: “Only been hit 6 times in my last 4 fights combined. Hard to get competition when you are the best in the world!”

Askren has declared who he would like to face in his next bout. In a post-match interview, Askren called out ONE FC 170-pound champion Nobutatsu Suzuki, who has a record of 11-1-2, saying, “Suzuki is going to bring me my belt. He can put it in the middle of the cage and give it to me, or I can take it the hard way.”

In December 2013, Askren signed with Singapore-based ONE FC, after having been welterweight champ for Bellator Fighting Championships. His debut match with Abbasov was announced in early April.

Prior to entering MMA competition, Ben Askren was a highly decorated amateur wrestler. The Wisconsin native 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.

Even as an MMA fighter, Askren has kept his hand in wrestling, with his involvement in the Agon Wrestling Championships venture, launched in 2013, both as a matchmaker and as a competitor. At Agon Wrestling I: The Revolution in Las Vegas in October, the former Mizzou Tiger defeated Quentin Wright, a two-time NCAA champ for Penn State. In January, Askren beat former University of Illinois wrestler Mike Poeta at Agon Wrestling III: Festival of Funk at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.