Like him or not, Askren is effective
After a five-round clinical decision against Douglas Lima on Friday, Askren took fans to task for booing his wrestling-heavy performance. Go watch boxing, he responded. And you know, he's absolutely right. The baseline point of MMA has always been this: My style is more effective than your style. Not more entertaining. Not more violent. Not more promotable.
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No surprise, I don't see it that way. Give me more Hodge Trophy winners in MMA. More Olympians. If they can take down, hold down and defeat the opposition, then it's a job well done, as far as I'm concerned. These men are winners and supreme competitors, regardless of their style, and that's plenty good enough for me.
If in the end this MMA experiment proves that a submission-savvy, world-class wrestler is the antidote for all other styles, then that's just the way it is.
Following his fight, an astute Twitter follower described Askren's style as "combat grappling," which I think is a perfect description of what he's attempting to do. If Askren improves his guard passing -- which includes the desire to pass -- and submission skills from top position, we could be talking about a man who's going to be hard to beat.
Some people will cringe at the idea that he'd reach that level. Not that Askren cares -- one gets the sense he'll do it just to spite them.
Bellator 64 grades
Death, taxes and Ben Askren's top control it's beginning to look a lot like you can count on all three. So Askren manhandled Lima, yet he never hurt the striker or threatened a finish. He can take a shot to the chin -- Lima tested that a couple of times -- which is a good sign. The next phase of Askren's evolution should focus on guard passing and top-game submissions. He's smart to focus his attack in the grappling realm, even as he works on striking with Duke Roufus. So long as he wins he can get a pass fighting the way he does.
Unranked and unheralded, Travis Marx used his size and strength to befuddle a more skilled Japanese fighter, Masakatsu Ueda (15-2-2). This was the scenario we've seen often in MMA, the one in which a high-caliber Japanese fighter comes to the U.S., fights in a cage, and appears to be physically overwhelmed. Marx (19-3) wrestled well, but most important, he kept things aggressive. While their grappling exchanges were terrific, Marx didn't allow Ueda, 34, any sense of comfort on the floor. Even when Ueda had his moments, and there were a few, the 34-year-old Marx remained calm, found the best escape route and executed.
Hardly Marlon Sandro's best effort, but it was clear that had a lot to do with the mutual respect between him and 24-year-old Alexandre Bezerra (13-2), who in another life could have easily passed for Sandro's son. Most people saw this fight as a potential war, yet Bezerra never got off and Sandro (22-3) chose to play it predominantly safe. The win advances Sandro to the finals of the Bellator featherweight tournament, but the top-10-ranked 145-pounder will need to get back to business against Mike Corey or Daniel Straus. As for Bezerra, he blew an opportunity against an idol of his and he knew it.
Unlike Shooto champion Ueda, Hiroshi Nakamura, 31, was not out of his element in the cage. Nakamura (15-4-4) handed Rodrigo Lima his first loss in 11 fights by scoring takedowns, maintaining thorough control from the top, and avoiding submissions. Nakamura, 31, faces the prospect of more powerful foes in the next stages of the bantamweight tournament, but so far so good.
There was little Douglas Lima could do against Askren's wrestling. Everyone save the Brazilian knew this coming into the fight. While Lima threatened from the bottom with armbars and triangles, he never really mustered much offense. It seemed as if he might in the early going, landing on Askren as the wrestler attempted to get inside, yet he failed to do so as the fight played out. Essentially this was Lima on his back, frustrated, neutralized and shut out on the judges' cards. Clearly he did not have an answer against one of the most talented wrestlers to step into MMA in a long time. Good news: Lima (21-5) is only 24 and has the talent and drive to improve.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.
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