Commentary

Like him or not, Askren is effective

Originally Published: April 9, 2012
By Josh Gross | ESPN.com

Ben AskrenKeith Mills for Sherdog.com It wasn't pretty, but Ben Askren's wrestling proved effective against Douglas Lima.

Depending on your perspective, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren represents everything that's great or terrible about mixed martial arts. That's a pretty neat trick, one the two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner, awarded to the best collegiate wrestler each year, has fully embraced.

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.

Thus far, Akren's style has been effective enough to register a 10-0 start to his career. And yet for some MMA watchers that's not at all good enough. To the anti-Askren crowd, the 27-year-old Wisconsinite, whose last six bouts have gone the distance, has usurped Jon Fitch as the paragon of boring. So he wins; big deal, they say. He sucks to watch.

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.

[+] EnlargeAskren
Sherdog.comBen Askren, top, was in his element for all of five rounds against Douglas Lima.
Of course, it's way too early to declare Askren -- or his style -- as pre-eminent. There's a long way to go before Askren can get close to maximizing his potential in MMA, which doesn't necessarily translate to him being a top-class striker or a rubber-guard-wielding madman. And as part of that scenario, Askren's opposition will have to improve. He can outgrapple fighters like Lima all day long, but what happens against a division heavily flavored by quality wrestlers?

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.

Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.