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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Ben Askren won the Bellator Season Two Welterweight tournament after competing in the sport of mixed martial arts for less than two years. But Askren's competitive nature and ability was honed during a lifelong career as an amateur wrestler.
His two NCAA D-1 titles and his appearance on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team are a testament to his abilities, and that drive and determination - as well as the confidence and bravado he developed in his wrestling career - have served him well on this new career path.
Heading into his Bellator Welterweight Championship fight with season one tournament winner Lyman Good, one thing Askren is not lacking is confidence.
"I'm not really worried about anything that Lyman [Good] brings to the table," Askren told MMATorch on Tuesday. "Maybe his stand up is better but it ain't going to be on the feet very long. I know my cardio is way better than his and he can't stand up for five rounds with me because I'll wear him out so bad he won't know what hit him."
It's not just five rounds with a dominant wrestler that Good has to concentrate on heading into this fight, it's also a matter of ring rust as well. Good has been out of action with injuries since winning the season one tournament, but Askren doesn't believe it would have helped him to be in action more recently anyway.
"I think whether he had ring rust or no ring rust I'd still whup his ass," Askren said. "I think five rounds favors me. 25 minutes is just a drop in the bucket compared to the time I've done in my life through wrestling. So there really is no worry about that.
"I keep a strong pace in the gym the whole time because I know if I keep a strong pace and my opponent's aren't keeping that strong of a pace there's no way they can stand up to the pressure I'm going to put on them. I think you saw that with [Dan] Hornbuckle, he definitely faded in the third round and the same with [Ryan] Thomas. Over five rounds I think they fade even more."
Next week's fight with Good is in Philadelphia, Penn., closer to Good's home in New York than Askren's mid-west home base. But Askren said he pushed for the fight to be this week at Kansas City, and it was Good who opted not to fight him there.
"I was really pitching for Kansas City because I went to school in Columbia, Missouri, which is not very far from Kansas City," Askren said. "So actually, they had agreed to let me fight this Thursday the 14th in Kansas City. So I sent the bout agreement out and I signed it. But I waited two weeks and wanted to announce on my Twitter 'I'll be fighting in Kansas City so all my friends can come see me.'
"But they wouldn't give me the ok to announce it, and somehow I found out that Lyman wouldn't sign the bout agreement to fight me in Kansas City. So I thought 'what a chickensh**.' So then the next place was Philadelphia, and I don't care, [near] his hometown, he can have a million fans there, it ain't going to help him. I'm not going to bicker about it, when I'm the champ I'll make the rules and I'll tell you guys where I want to fight and we'll go from there."
As for how the fight goes next week, Askren said there should be no surprise as to how it will play out.
"If Lyman can stop my takedown he's a damn good wrestler and I just don't see that happening," he said. "He might stop one, he might stop two, but he ain't going to stay on his feet very long.
"I would love to finish him fast and I really plan on it."
Askren is still young into the sport, but he's got lofty goals and also some choice thoughts about the man many have pegged as the "best wrestler in MMA": UFC Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre.
"I want to become the best pound for pound fighter in the world [and] I think I can get that started [under the Bellator banner]," said Askren. "I strongly disagree [with the statement that Georges St. Pierre is the best wrestler in MMA]. The only person that he really out-wrestled who is good is Josh Koscheck. And Koscheck was way too worried about keeping his hands up by his ears and not getting hit in the head to defend his legs. So just because you can take someone down when their hands are at their head doesn't mean you're a good wrestler."
"If me and Georges were in a wrestling match, it wouldn't be close."
Asked who he thought was the best wrestler in MMA for MMA, Askren was unabashedly biased.
"I would think [I am the best wrestler in MMA for MMA]," he said. "I think Daniel Cormier is going to make a case for himself also... I think we're going to have a lot more accomplished wrestlers making the jump but obviously I'm biased, but I would say myself."
Askren's going to have a chance to put that moniker to the test next week, and his fight with Lyman Good will air on Fox Sports Net as part of a stacked Bellator 33 card from Philadelphia.
Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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