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UFC Fight Night: Maia v Askren
Ben Askren
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Askren vs Koreshkov: Bellator MMA’s ‘Funky’ era heyday

Before he became known as the five-second man at UFC 239, “Funky” Ben Askren had amassed a 19-0 (1 NC) record competing all around the world for multiple mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions. Part of that run included an unprecedented 1,120 straight days as Bellator MMA’s Welterweight champion. In fact, Askren never even lost the title — he simply vacated it when Bjorn Rebney let his contract run out.

While “The Phenom” Douglas Lima is approaching the number of combined days as champion in three separate title runs (currently more than 1,000) that Askren had in one continuous run, Askren never got much love from MMA fans then ... or now. For me his smooth ankle picks and double legs had the opposite effect — the more his wrestling made people mad, the more amused I was that nobody could stop him from doing it.

The peak of the “Funky” era came in his last title defense at Bellator 97 on July 31, 2013, at Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Askren had recently beaten the aforementioned Lima in a five round unanimous decision and followed it up with a technical knockout win against “Psycho” Karl Amoussou at Bellator 86. His elbows on top sliced and diced up his opponent until a doctor stopped it for Amoussou’s own good.

As impressive as that victory was, “Spartan” Andrey Koreshkov would be the toughest challenge of Askren’s career to date at Bellator 97. Like his opponent, Koreshkov was undefeated to date in his MMA career, bringing a 13-0 record into the match for his first-ever world title shot. He earned that shot with a unanimous decision win against Lyman Good, the only other 170-pound champion to date in Bellator MMA’s history.

Standing 6’1” with a 76-inch reach, the disciple of “Storm” Alexander Shlemenko would be a big size mismatch for Askren at 5’10” and only a 72-inch reach. Even though the wrestling skill that made him a four-time All-American at the University of Missouri and a member of the 2008 Olympic team had carried him to this point, takedowns could prove difficult against the power and strength of Koreshkov. For those who disliked Askren’s fighting style, the Koreshkov fight was their light at the end of the tunnel — a way to finally end the “reign of terror” dating back to 2010.

For all of Koreshkov’s fearsome size and power, Askren’s tenacity was a strength even Koreshkov couldn’t match. Despite fending off an early takedown attempt in round one, Askren stayed on him like a dog on a bone until he got to the marrow. Once Askren had him on the ground he floated over the top of Koreshkov with one guard pass after another, making the man from Omsk suddenly seem like a fish out of water in a very big pond.

It would only get worse for Koreshkov from that point on. Askren taunted his opponent and rallied his supporters by taking a back mount and pandering to the crowd for a “U-S-A” chant in round two. Only someone completely in control of a fight can afford to waste time with such antics ... and Askren was. Even though Koreshkov seemed able to shrug off what Askren’s critics derided as “soft blows” on top through the second and third frame, there was no question that Koreshkov was losing each round decisively.

Referee Jason Herzog had a decision to make going into the championship rounds — let Koreshkov continue to take a one-sided beating regardless of how hard the punches were, or show some mercy and stop an increasingly lopsided fight. After two minutes and 58 seconds of a continual beating and a request from Askren to end Koreshkov’s suffering, the bout was finally waved off via technical knockout. In the end, Askren landed 248 strikes, while Koreshkov managed only a paltry three. Whether you loved or hated him, Askren proved once again to be an unstoppable force of nature. He’d remain one for years to come.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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