Ben Askren, an Olympic wrestler and two-time national champion for the University of Missouri, beat Dan Hornbuckle in the Bellator welterweight finals. Askren scored the unanimous decision 30-27 on all three judges' cards in Kansas City on Thursday night.
The fight started out contentious, as Hornbuckle didn't touch gloves with Askren before the fight began. But as soon as the bell rang, Askren took control and didn't let go. He used his Olympic-level wrestling skills dominate Hornbuckle while still landing strike after strike on the more-experienced Hornbuckle.
Anything but lay and pray, Askren stayed active in picking apart Hornbuckle. Three times in the fight, Hornbuckle threatened with an armbar and two Kimura submission attempts, but Askren had no problem getting out of each attempt.
With the win, Askren now will have a chance to fight Lyman Good, Bellator's season one welterweight champ, for the Bellator belt. Askren wrestled for a spot on the U.S. freestyle wrestling world team this past weekend but lost to the eventual champ. The spot against Good and $100,000 for winning the Bellator tournament is a nice consolation prize.
"Keep my belt warm, shine it once a week, and enjoy it while you've got it because it's mine, baby," Askren said to Good in the postfight interview.
Askren's win over Hornbuckle for the welterweight title was the only Bellator tournament bout on the card in Kansas City. In non-tournament action, Jose Vega, Raphael Davis and Lisa Ward were also big winners.
Vega, fighting out of nearby Knob Noster, Mo., notched a 39-second knockout over Jerrod Card. With his impressive win, Vega likely earned a spot in the Bellator bantamweight tournament, which will run this fall.
Raphael Davis easily won over Demetrius Richards with a first-round submission due to strikes. Davis took control of Richards on the ground, and while on Richards' back, threw punch after punch until Richards tapped out at 2:51 into the first round. Davis seemed frustrated that he fought an opponent who tapped out so quickly. In the postfight interview, he asked, "Who taps out from strikes?
Lisa Ward also scored a quick win. Stephanie Frausto, the younger sister of Strikeforce fighter Zoila, had no answer for Ward's wrestling. Ward easily sunk in a rear naked choke. Frausto passed out from the choke, giving Ward the win at 2:01 in the first round. After the fight, Ward said that she wanted a spot in Bellator's female 115-lb. tourney this fall to get another shot at Megumi Fujii, the favorite headed into the tourney.
Next week, Bellator will wrap up season two with their featherweight finals, a bout between Joe Warren and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, and middleweight finals which will feature Alexander Shlemenko and Bryan Baker.
- Dan Hornbuckle
- Ben Askren