Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Robbie Lawler and Ben Askren will go to war this Saturday (March 2, 2019) at UFC 235 from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Has there ever been a more picture perfect striker vs. grappler match up? Lawler is the former Welterweight champion, a “Ruthless” knockout artist known for his savage blitzes, sharp counter punches and power kicks. Oh, and he’s famous for digging deep and going on mad offensive onslaughts late in fights. Askren, meanwhile, has dominated all comers in promotion’s like Bellator and ONE FC. Still undefeated and a former title holder in both organizations, Askren’s ability to chain wrestle is perhaps unmatched in mixed martial arts (MMA).
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 28-12 (1)
Key Wins: Rory MacDonald (UFC 189, UFC 167), Johny Hendricks (UFC 181), Carlos Condit (UFC 195), Matt Brown (UFC on FOX 12)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (UFC 201), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 26), Johny Hendricks (UFC 171)
Keys to Victory: I think I speak for just about every MMA fan when hoping that Lawler has fully recovered from the torn ACL suffered in his last appearance. If the 36-year-old brawler is still even somewhat close to peak form, this is a seriously rough introduction fight for Ben Askren.
At this point, Lawler has fought probably a dozen high-level wrestlers. He knows the basic plan for avoiding the takedown: do not over-swing on power shots, stay off the fence, and avoid throwing naked low kicks. However, it’s important that Lawler doesn’t completely stop kicking.
Lawler has a mean left kick, and Askren is hapless in the kickboxing department. Before his “Funky” foe gets close, Lawler should be looking to slam his shin into the body or head. Askren will try to latch onto his leg, sure, but Lawler’s athleticism should allow him to explode free so long as he’s aware.
Given his explosiveness and wrestling experience, Lawler will likely be able to deny at least a few of Askren’s takedowns. Whenever that happens, it’s vital that Lawler attacks immediately. Askren must be punished for his shots, otherwise he’ll just keep spamming attempts until one sticks.
Record: 18-0 (1)
Key Wins: Douglas Lima (Bellator 64), Andrey Koreshkov (Bellator 97), Shinya Aoki (One Championship 64)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Askren is an absolute a specialist. A two-time collegiate wrestling champion and member of the United States 2008 Olympic Freestyle Wrestling team, Askren’s game in the Octagon very much reflects his background: Askren is diving for legs and looking to gain top position by any means necessary.
Askren is vulnerable until the fight hits the mat. He has made little effort to grow as a kickboxer — Askren knows where he dominates and sticks solely to those areas. As a result, neither his defense nor offense on the feet are particularly good.
Against Lawler — a man with serious one-punch power — that’s a problem. To minimize his risk of getting blasted early, Askren would perhaps be best advised to run straight at Lawler and give him no time to find range or set up strikes. Think back to Cain Velasquez’s second fight with Junior dos Santos, in which Velasquez tacked “JDS” in the opening seconds and never let his foe unleash any of his usual power punches.
Bottom Line: It’s time to find out where Ben Askren stands.
Lawler may be fulfilling the role of measuring stick, but there’s much on the line for the former champion. If Lawler has fully recovered from his injury, there’s a real chance he could still be a top contender. Lawler’s time as champion was immensely entertaining, so who wouldn’t love to see him back in the mix?
Meanwhile, a loss is likely the definitive signal that those days have ended.
As for Askren, it’s impossible to know where he stands. He has some great wins on his record, but in truth, most of his biggest wins came against opponents not yet in their prime or far removed from their best years. It could be argued that Lawler is a member of the latter group, but it still was not long ago that the “Ruthless” one was king. A win here would be the best, most legitimizing victory of Askren’s career, precisely what’s needed to set up a high-profile match up next.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 235 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
At UFC 235, Robbie Lawler and Ben Askren will collide in a clash of styles. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?