Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Ben Askren: who would win a fight?
Former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion Ben “Funky” Askren has finally signed with the UFC. The standout mixed martial artist has long desired to test his skills in the Octagon, but his smothering style, in coordination with a dispute with UFC brass, previously halted any chance of his joining the promotion.
Now, thanks to the new UFC owners’ desire to give fans exactly what they want to see, Askren has joined the promotional ranks, and in exchange, former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson is making his way to ONE. That’s right – Askren’s signing was something of a trade, as his ONE contract was swapped for Johnson’s UFC contract.
Once his UFC agreement was finalized, Askren took to Twitter to put the vast majority of welterweight’s top ten on blast, and UFC President Dana White has confirmed that because of Funky’s undefeated record and champion status, he will be booked against a top-five opponent right off the bat. In the end, Ben Askren will make his UFC debut against #6 in the Welterweight ranking Robbie Lawler at the UFC 235 event on March 2nd.
If Askren gets his first UFC win against Lawler, there is a good chance Dana White would want to make a “super fight” between the two undefeated wrestlers – Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Ben Askren, Russia vs the United States – UFC will easily sell this fight especially if they can’t make Khabib vs Ferguson happen (for whatever reason).
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) February 1, 2019
Khabib is coming off the biggest win of his undefeated MMA career over Conor McGregor. Nurmagomedov was suspended for 9 months for the brawl he caused at the end of the fight with McGregor and according to his father Abdulmanap, he won’t fight any earlier than late summer-beginning of September.
It seems like this would be perfect timing for these two great wrestlers to face each other inside the Octagon as they’ll get approval from the UFC. So, let’s take a look at what fans can expect from a potential matchup between Ben Askren and Khabib Nurmagomedov!
Background and Credentials
Ben Askren and Khabib Nurmagomedov are both wrestlers – plain and simple. Both men have made careers out of taking their opponents down to the canvas and overwhelming them with strikes and submissions once there.
Askren’s wrestling credentials are phenomenal – he was an NCAA Division 1 and Olympic wrestler – and time and time again, he’s showed that his takedowns and ground game abilities are some of the best in the MMA.
Khabib’s technical wrestling accolades aren’t as impressive as Askren’s, but it’s clear by the way he fights that, if born in the US, he’d be part of a famous wrestling program. Khabib is a natural wrestler but he also seems to be a more versatile fighter than Ben because he was also practicing combat sambo before he moved on to MMA.
Khabib trains with the world-renowned American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in California. The team is also home to the likes of Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Josh Thomson (here is a full list of Khabib’s training partners). Askren, on the other hand, trains at the highly touted Roufusport in Milwaukee, where Tyron Woodley, Anthony Pettis, Sergio Pettis, and many others have also set up shop.
In terms of career bouts, both men have faced cream-of-the-crop opponents – and that’s a big part of what makes a potential fight between them so appealing. Khabib has topped elite martial artists such as Edson Barboza, Conor McGregor, Michael Johnson, Rafael dos Anjos, and Al Iaquinta; Askren, although he’s not fought in the UFC, has locked horns with and completely dominated top-five welterweights like Andrey Koreshkov and Douglas Lima.
Khabib vs Askren Matchup
Both Askren and Nurmagomedov rightfully believe that their takedowns are the best in the sport. As a result of this belief, it should be expected that both men will attempt to bring the fight to the canvas soon after the first bell rings. Unless there is a major discrepancy in skillsets (and that doesn’t appear to be the case), the athletes will likely break and compete at a striking range or clinch up against the fence.
At a striking range, there’s no telling who the superior competitor is – until we watch the fight, that is!
Objectively speaking, we’ve seen more of Nurmagomedov’s stand-up, as he’s held his own and landed solid shots against Al Iaquinta and Conor McGregor; Khabib was even able to knock Conor down with an overhand right which was very impressive.
However, Iaquinta took his match on a day’s notice, and McGregor was focused on defending the takedown and was accordingly not expecting a well-timed punch. In short, from what we know, Nurmagomedov has the better striking than Askren. But we don’t know that much, as neither man has been forced to strike. Additionally, there’s a bare minimum level of skill involved with standing opposite Koreshkov and Lima and not being immediately overwhelmed.
Similarly, our knowledge of clinch superiority is limited, for Askren and Nurmagomedov. Both men have badly beaten other mixed martial artists in the clinch, and that doesn’t provide much to go on analysis-wise. What we do know is that Khabib trains alongside some clinching “black belts”, in Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier. Askren’s training partners, including the Pettis Brothers and Tyron Woodley, are phenomenal, but they’re known more for their striking than their grappling and clinch work. Whether or not this will give Khabib an advantage is uncertain.
Size-wise, Nurmagomedov probably isn’t that much smaller than the lifelong welterweight Askren and if this fight happens, they’ll probably meet somewhere in the middle at catchweight. Khabib cuts a great deal of weight – as has sometimes been to his detriment. However, at the highest level of the sport, even a seemingly inconsequential size advantage can prove valuable; this might be the case for Askren.
The only way we’ll know without a shadow of a doubt who will win between Ben Askren and Khabib Nurmagomedov is if the UFC goes ahead and actually books the contest; there are just too many factors to consider to make a confident prediction.
For me personally, I feel like Khabib would KO Askren as he keeps working on and “upgrading” his stand-up and boxing. And it’s something we’ve never seen from Ben. I would say that neither Nurmagomedov or Askren will gain an advantage on the ground and I can see Khabib knocking Ben down in a stand-up exchange.
There have been some rumors of this match coming to fruition, and we all know that super fights (and “special” matches) are made more frequently now than they were in the past. Accordingly, it’s very possible that the undefeated Askren could go to war with the undefeated Nurmagomedov in a bout that is sure to produce massive ratings.
On the other hand, more super fight possibilities mean that there’s technically a lesser chance of any super fight being booked. Rumblings of Khabib vs McGregor 2, Khabib vs GSP, Askren vs GSP, and more should be considered potential realities.
Whatever the UFC decides and whoever Nurmagomedov and Askren fight next – even if it’s one another – here’s to two men who’ve defied statistics and the odds by maintaining undefeated records in a sport wherein doing so is practically unheard of.
What do you guys think about Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Ben Askren matchup?