There is absolutely nothing exciting about Ben Askren’s fighting style. But it works.
Throughout his brief mixed martial arts career, Askren easily takes opponents to the ground and smothers them.
And that is exactly what the defending welterweight champion did Friday night against top contender Douglas Lima at Bellator 64 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Askren methodically took Lima to the ground repeatedly during their five-round title bout en route to a unanimous decision at Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino.
And when he got Lima on the ground, Askren controlled the action. Once in a while Askren would connect with right hands, but none of his strikes did much damage.
It didn’t matter. Askren retained his title by winning every round on the judges’ scorecard.
All of them scored the fight 50-45 for Askren. ESPN.com also had the champion winning 50-45.
Despite the lopsided scoring, fans inside the arena were disappointed with the lack of action. They booed loudly each time the fighters hit the canvas.
Askren, however, was undaunted and offered a harsh response to fans who did not appreciate his effort.
“I was told you Canadian fans like fighting and I haven't seen anybody look that good in a long time,” said Askren, who successfully defended his title for the second time. “If you don’t like the ground work, there is a sport they call boxing; that’s not as fun, though.”
Askren improved to 10-0. Lima slipped to 21-5 after having his win streak halted at nine.
Not everyone inside the arena was down on Askren's performance. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney sang the champion's praises after the fight.
"Utter dominance again," Rebney said. "He makes world-class fighters look like they are just beginning."
Sandro beats Bezerra by split decision
But a two-fight win streak did nothing to erase the pain he felt after that loss.
Sandro used the pain as extra motivation against Alexandre Bezerra in their Bellator Featherweight Tournament semifinal bout.
The extra motivation allowed Sandro to land hard right hands and avoid counterstrikes from Bezerra in the first two rounds. It also served to help Sandro survive hard punches from Bezerra in the third round for a split-decision win.
Two judges scored the fight 29-28 for Sandro (23-3); while the third had Bezerra winning 29-28. ESPN.com had Sandro winning 29-28.
But while Sandro jumped for joy after his name was announced as the victory, fans inside the arena were not impressed. They booed loudly after the fight became official.
Sandro was not happy with the crowd’s reaction.
“This is very hard,” Sandro said to the crowd. “He was a tough guy. I came here to put on a good fight for everybody.”
Underdog Marx earns spot in semifinals
Travis Marx was the last man chosen to participate in Season 6 of Bellator’s Bantamweight Tournament. And he wasn’t expected to survive veteran Masakatsu Ueda in their quarterfinal match.
But Marx was undaunted by the challenge and used his superior size and wrestling skills to control Ueda on the ground en route to a unanimous-decision victory and spot in the tournament semifinal round.
All three judges scored the fight 29-28, allowing Marx to improve to 19-3.
“I never perceived myself as the underdog,” Marx said. “I came out here wanting to win it and that is what I did.”
Nakamura hands Lima first pro loss
Fighting in North America for the first time and against a young, aggressive opponent was more than enough to give Hiroshi Nakamura butterflies early in his bantamweight tournament quarterfinal bout.
But after taking Rodrigo Lima to the canvas early in the opening round and avoiding numerous submission attempts throughout the fight, Nakamura overcame his initial uneasiness to earn a unanimous decision.
All three judges scored the fight 29-27.
“This is my first time in North America, so I was feeling a little uncomfortable at the beginning,” Nakamura said after improving to 15-5-4. “But now I’ve gotten over that and feel comfortable going into the second round.”
Lima had a point deducted by referee Yves Lavigne in Round 2 for a knee below the belt.
Lima entered the bout undefeated and determined to use his aggressive fighting style to offset Nakamura’s experience. His pushed hard during standup action, but was taken down repeatedly.
Lima falls to 10-1.