Ben Askren is as tough as they come, but Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson believes he needs to work on other aspects of his game besides his wrestling.
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Askren suffered the first defeat of his professional career after a flying knee knockout from Jorge Masvidal just five seconds into their UFC 239 fight this past weekend. The knee connected right as Askren ducked his head down to look for a takedown, which Masvidal later claimed him and his team accurately predicted.
Many have since criticized Askren for being one-dimensional and predictable as most of his fights usually go to the mat, while he seldom engages in the standup. While Thompson didn’t necessarily criticize him, he does feel “Funky” needs to implement more than just wrestling in his fights.
“Yeah, it could still be a possibility down the road,” Thompson told Submission Radio of a possible Askren fight. “Ben Askren, he is a very strong wrestler, probably the best in the division, I think. But then again, when you’re in the fight game like this, some of the other things you have to improve. It can’t just be wrestling all the time. You got to continue to work on your striking, get better at that. His wrestling and jiu-jitsu is ridiculous, but every fight starts on your feet.
“You saw in the first fight [vs. Robbie Lawler], I thought he got knocked out, I thought it was over at first. Ben Askren, he’s a tough boy. Golly, he’s a tough boy. That’s what wrestling does. When you wrestle your whole life, you got to be a tough dude to wrestle. I get most of my injuries wrestling. But he had that first fight in the UFC with Lawler, I thought Lawler was going to finish him. He got tagged up, I thought he was knocked out. Next thing you know, that controversial submission.
“But then, watching that, it’s like, you got to work on your striking. You got to work on your head movement, you can’t just walk forward. Masvidal just took better advantage of it, he knew exactly what he was going to do… If I had to work with him, I would definitely work a little bit more on his movement, his fighting stances, some head movement. Movement is everything when it comes to the fight game.”
Askren, meanwhile, doesn’t believe he was wrong to go for the takedown, as his usual game plan over the years saw him remain unbeaten until this past weekend.
“It’s hard saying it’s wrong,” Askren told Ariel Helwani recently (via Bloody Elbow). “That would be total confirmation bias if I were to say that, and obviously a lot of people would. I’ve been in the cage 19 times, and that type of technique has worked 19 other times and has never failed me.
“So now, for the one time it fail me, to turn around and say, ‘Yeah, that’s bad technique, that’s not the way it should’ve been done, it was predictable,’ to say those things, obviously they would be correct, but it’s also confirmation bias. I am not going to fall for my own confirmation bias.”