Askren and Aleksakhin Engage in a Grueling Grappler-vs-Striker Battle
The best MMA fans in Asia (that’s us, by the way) was again treated to world-class MMA action last night, April 15, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines for ONE Championship: Global Rivals.
The night was electrifying. The fights were great. The champ donated to charity. A 5-0 sweep for the most decorated MMA team in the Philippines, Team Lakay. Another successful night for ONE.
In the main event of the evening, ONE welterweight kingpin Ben “Funky” Askren took his opponent, Russian sambo specialist Nikolay Aleksakhin, to wrestling school as he dominated the grappling exchanges with his world-class wrestling and grinding ground-and-pound en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Unlike his last visit to Manila last April 2015 – the fight against Luis Santos was ruled as a “No Contest” after an accidental eye poke from Askren at 2:19 of the first round – the welterweight champ finally showcased the skills that made him one of the best welterweights on the planet.
“It’s been 20 months since the last time I entered the cage. I feel a lot of excitement and I’m working on this for a long time,” Askren told the press following his unanimous decision victory. “I need to get into the cage and show them what’s hell,” he added.
The fight, which was supposedly for the ONE welterweight title, was downgraded to a five-round non-title catchweight fight after the Russian had problems making weight.
The first round started with Askren scoring a quick takedown in the first minute of the opening round where he spent the majority of the round laying elbows and strikes from different angles, wearing Aleksakhin out on the ground.
It was practically the same story in the second stanza, as Askren got his Russian foe to the mat once more and dominated most of the round from side control and crucifix.
In the third, the 25-year-old Russian found his second wind and used it in the first two minutes to land a number of hard kicks and cracking combinations. Aleksakhin connected with heavy bombs on Askren’s jaw, at one point sending the American’s mouthpiece flying out of his open mouth. The striking-biased crowd cheered Aleksakhin on, while for his part Askren continued to chase for that one takedown. A Greco-Roman clinch and a trip later, the US Olympian had Aleksakhin on his back until the bell rang.
The last two rounds were pretty much the same with the first two as Askren’s wrestling was simply too much for a drained Aleksakhin to handle. While the Russian was still able to hit home a number of times in the fourth, Askren got his second wind in the fifth to make sure that all three judges gave him the nod at the end of five hard-fought rounds.
“Fighting five rounds against a tough opponent is a sh*t job. But that dude was so strong, I’m having a hard time isolating his inside arm, which could have ended the fight,” said the 31-year-old Askren.
With the victory, the former Bellator and current ONE welterweight champion improves his undefeated record to 15-0-(1NC) while the tough Russian Aleksakhin falls to 17-4.
In the post-fight press conference, Askren also revealed that the the 20% purse penalty on Aleksakhin that he was meant to receive will be donated to charity instead.
“I did feel that it’s not the money I earned, so I’m giving all of them to Children’s Hour and to the great charities that ONE put out there. I think it’s important to give back to the community,” the ONE welterweight champion concluded.