Nobody makes it out of MMA with a perfect record. It was just a matter of time before the 19-0 Ben Askren suffered his first loss. However, nobody could have seen this coming.
With an official time of five seconds, Askren found himself on the wrong end of the UFC’s quickest KO via a flying knee from Jorge Masvidal.
After being traded to the UFC, everything has not gone to plan for the former ONE Championship welterweight champion. While his UFC debut was a win, it came at what will likely be the most controversial moment of the year in a “did he/didn’t he” submission victory over Robbie Lawler.
Unfortunately for Askren, the 170-pound division is as stacked a division in all of MMA. With dozens of potential fights to be played out within the top #5, this loss drops Askren out belt contention. Maybe for good, unless he can string together three or four solid wins.
It’s fair for UFC fans to say Askren has yet to prove his championship caliber inside the octagon. So, where does he go from here?
The 41-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist is still going strong, clawing his way back up the rankings. After three straight losses to then-champion Tyron Woodley, eventual interim champ Colby Covington, and eventual unanimous champ Kamaru Usman, Maia has put together a two-fight win streak in 2019.
While Maia knows he may not get his chance at another title shot, he is eyeing the record of most UFC wins. Currently sitting at 21 wins, it’s possible for Maia to pass Donald Cerrone’s current record of 23 wins before his retirement.
A matchup with Askren would be an intriguing fight between one of the UFC’s best jiu-jitsu fighters and an Olympic level wrestler in Askren. A ground-game and grappling focused match would certainly be a change of pace for Ben from the heavy hitters that were his last two opponents.
While Askren was on his ascent to belt contention, he felt he had no reason to rematch with Robbie Lawler. Now, it may be the best fight he can get.
Their first match ended in a controversial stoppage granting Askren a submission victory. However, if you ask 50 people you will get 50 different response on what happened at the end of the fight.
What we do know is that both fighters showed moments of dominance during the fight. Lawler landed some massive hits, but Askren was able to scramble and wrestle Robbie on his way to a bulldog choke victory.
Lawler is currently scheduled to fight former interim champion Colby Covington in August. If Lawler wins, he is right back in the hunt for the title, but with a loss, Lawler vs. Askren 2 would be the fight to make.
UFC fans want to see it, Dana White wants to see it, and after a humiliating loss, Askren may change his mind on running it back.
Going out on a five-second KO loss would be tough for any fighter, much less one of the most divisive fighters to enter the UFC in recent memory.
Askren has retired before though, walking away after defending his ONE Championship welterweight title against Shinya Aoki. After the trade with ONE Championship, Ben came out of retirement to claim a title in the UFC, the one promotion he never got his shot in. Now that the title seems like a far and distant goal.
While Askren has reportedly not suffered any major injuries from the Masvidal KO, it was one of the most ruthless hits the UFC has seen in a long time. Askren laid stiff in the octagon for an uncomfortable amount of time before being escorted away in an obvious daze of confusion.
He ultimately got the victory against Lawler but took a massive amount of damage in the opening seconds, where most people thought he was momentarily knocked out.
Askren has been a champion in wrestling and grappling and held welterweight belts in both Bellator and ONE Championship. He has nothing left to prove at his point other than his legacy in his post-retirement UFC run, but with no shot at the title, is the damage of a few more fights worth taking?
A 2017 interview with The MMA Hour on his decision to retire may give some insight into what his next move will be.
“I mean, you think about who retires during their prime, the number of athletes who do that in any sport is very small,” Askren said.
“But then you look at someone like Muhammad Ali, who was literally my favorite athlete of all-time. The punishment he took from sticking around too long past his prime, man, I would have to say — we can’t prove it, but I’d have to say we could guess it led to a lot of the problems that he had later in his life.”