Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren pummeled French challenger Karl Amoussou on Thursday at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., forcing referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight on advice from the cageside physician after three brutal rounds.
Askren made full use of his Olympic-caliber wrestling skills by repeatedly outmaneuvering Amoussou (16-5-2) into takedowns. From top position, the undefeated 28-year-old welterweight mauled his challenger with punches and elbows.
"I told you guys it was just a matter of time before my hands got power in them," Askren said. "I was dominant positionally and my hands got power. Any welterweight in the world better watch out. I'm coming."
Amoussou hoped to counter Askren's grappling advances by hitting him hard in the face or using judo to reverse and establish top position. He had one chance at that in Round 2, when Askren was forced to play guard. The challenger almost immediately ceded position in favor of submission, and torqued on a heel hook. Askren, however, calmly spun out of the hold and re-established control. He then rained down hell for the remainder of the fight, and Amoussou, despite believing he could, failed to find a submission victory.
The ringside physician allowed Amoussou, who was cut badly above his left eye because of an elbow strike, into the third round, and only because the 27-year-old Frenchman must have been in tremendous shape after spending two months at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. Askren never stopped attacking from the top, and moved to 5-0 against ATT affiliated fighters.
Some have criticized Askren for keeping true to his wrestling roots, thus slowing the pace. Based on how good he is at what he does, though, these criticisms ring hollow.
"I've been secure in who I am for a long time," the Bellator champion said prior to the fight. "I've never been worried about what people thought of me."
Askren (11-0) predicted an easy win en route to a TKO finish no later than the third, and that's exactly what he got.
In a battle of unblemished fighters, Russian Andrei Koreshkov (13-0) will be next to challenge Askren.
Perfect Bellator debut for Lawal
"King" Mo Lawal made a statement in his Bellator debut and reinforced the point post-fight.
"I'm going to knock 'em out," the former Oklahoma State wrestler said. "That's all I want to do."
Lawal, 32, plastered little known Przemylaw Mysiala with a right hand that materialized off a blocked high kick, finishing what seemed to be coming from the opening bell.
Movement, distance and a stiff jab (all things Lawal worked on in Las Vegas at Mayweather boxing) were key components of his game on Thursday. "King" Mo popped Mysiala's head back early and often, opening a steady stream of blood that ran nose to chin down the heavy underdog's face.
For the former Strikeforce champion Lawal, the win came in his first fight since being suspended for performance-enhancing drugs by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Lawal, a former Division I All-American wrestler, didn't throw a hint of a takedown against Mysiala.
"My goal was to come out and knock him out," he said.
Saunders, Lima, Weedman, Amaya advance
Lima looked primed to make another run to a title shot following a destructive second-round technical knockout over Russian Michail Tsarev.
The fight turned late in Round 1 when Lima (23-5) slammed a kick into his opponent's left leg. Lima immediately went after Tsarev in the second until the eventual loser couldn't stand without leaning on something. Herzog moved in to save Tsarev, who was knocked down several times, at 1:44 of Round 2.
In the next round, Lima, 25, will meet Saunders, who handled a fairly tame "Lion King" Koffi Adzitso (18-10).
Grappling from the top or bottom didn't make a difference for Saunders, who was dangerous from either vantage point. Were it not for the multiple interventions of referee Kerry Hatley, it's likely Adzitso would have been grounded for as long as Saunders wanted. In the third, Saunders (15-5-2) picked up his ground-and-pound en route to a clean sweep decision (30-27).
On the other side of the bracket, Weedman scored a unanimous decision over former Dream champion Marius Zaromskis. Weedman (21-8-1) will meet Amaya (11-1), who stopped Jose Gomes with punches at 3:12 of the opening round.