Ben Askren secured a first-round submission win in his UFC debut, but it wasn’t without controversy.
Askren clashed with Robbie Lawler in a welterweight bout at UFC 235 and was immediately tested by the UFC veteran. After Askren attempted an early takedown, Lawler managed to reverse the attempt and slam Askren on his head. Dazed from the slam, Lawler then proceeded to give Askren a more significant headache by slamming his right hand into his head multiple times.
A bloodied and bruised Askren worked his way back into the contest, however, and eventually caught Lawler in a tight bulldog choke a little after three minutes into round one. Askren locked up the choke and held the position. When Lawler’s hand went limp it prompted referee Herb Dean to step in and end the contest, who believed that Lawler was unconscious. It wasn’t the case, though, as Lawler jumped up and immediately expressed his anger at the stoppage.
During the UFC 235 post-fight press conference, Dana White labeled it a “bad stoppage,” before then expressing his desire to have the two fight each other again.
“You know, we had a debate, me, the ref, the commission, about being choked out. I’ve been choked out many times before too, and one of the things you don’t do is jump right up and say ‘What the f*** did you just do’ it never happens that way. That was a bad stoppage. It happens. What are you going to do? It sucks, it was a good fight,” White said.
“We gotta do the rematch on that one, it’s only fair.”
White also gave some insight into what he thought of Askren’s performance in his UFC debut.
“He looked rough,” Dana White shared with Aaron Bronsteter of TSN backstage after UFC 235.
“It’s tough to come into the UFC for your first fight and shine and look great. It’s not easy, I don’t care who you are, who you think you are or what you’ve done, this is a tough stage to come on to or the first time. He battled some adversity. I don’t believe the ref made a good call, I think the ref made a bad decision. That takes nothing away from the fact that he was able to get Lawler down in that position. The rematch should be great.”
White’s opinion on the stoppage is different to that of Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett, who declared that Lawler was “clearly out.”
And although White and the UFC are setting out for a rematch, Askren has other ideas.
“I already had my ticket to London. I was already going to challenge the winner of Till and Masvidal,” Askren explained to Aaron Bronsteter.
“That’s what I was set on. After tonight, I’m going to talk to Tyron, and I guess I’m going to reevaluate from here.”
Jake is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief, based in Tasmania, Australia.