Ben Askren continued his remarkable unbeaten streak in professional mixed martial arts with a first-round submission of Azerbaijan’s Bakhtiyar Abbasov on Friday night at ONE FC: Honor & Glory in Singapore.
Abbasov’s decision to take down Askren early backfired as the American welterweight wrestler took control on the ground, expertly manipulating his opponent to move round and execute a successful triangle-arm choke on 4:21 for his 13th straight win without loss.
The 29-year-old Milwaukee native, who goes by the nickname “Funky” due to his favoured wrestling style, appeared bemused at the ease of his victory, noting that it was the first time since his second professional bout that he’d won in the first round.
“I was so excited that he tried to take me down,” Askren told reporters in a post-fight interview.
“It’s like he’s coming into a spider’s web – he might be a little baby spider, but I am a tarantula.”
It was an accomplished performance on his ONE FC debut, and Askren was quick to give praise to the Singapore-based organisation he recently signed to on a six-fight deal.
“I thought it was awesome. ONE FC, they brought the show. They did a great job the whole way through,” he said. The 12,000-seater Singapore Indoor Stadium was packed on Friday as fans warmly welcomed the latest superstar on the ONE FC roster.
“The crowd was pumped. All the way to the back, all I heard was roaring the whole time,” added Askren.
Japanese MMA veteran Nobutatsu Suzuki is the current ONE FC welterweight division champion, and Askren made no hesitation in naming the next opponent he would like to face in the ONE FC cage.
“Suzuki – he’s got the belt,” he said. “That’s my belt. He’s just holding it for a while. I’m letting him borrow it.”
Such a title shot may well headline Cambodia’s inaugural ONE FC fight card that will be announced in the coming weeks. The event, slated for September 12, has been facilitated by a recently signed partnership deal between ONE FC and Phnom Penh’s business and entertainment hub NagaWorld.
ONE FC next travels to Jakarta for its ‘Era of Champions’ card on June 14. The following event on July 11, reported to be named ‘War of Dragons’, will be hosted for the first time in Taipei.
Shocks and glory
In the co-main event on Friday, Vincent Latoel of the Netherlands stunned Hong Kong lightweight and Singapore fan favourite Eddie “The Magician” Ng with a first-round knock out by punches.
With fans still angrily booing referee Yuji Shimada’s apparent premature stoppage, Ng drew applause for his composed reaction in his post-match address.
“Referees are there for the safety of all the fighters, and I respect the decision by Yuji [Shimada] to stop the fight when he felt he needed to,” Ng told the crowd.
The 28-year-old, who grew up in the northeast of England before moving to train at Singapore’s Evolve MMA gym, saw his unblemished four-fight record with ONE FC come to an end but revealed he had suffered a broken wrist during training just two weeks previously.
Other results saw Mongolian warhorse Jadamba Narantungalag stamp his authority on his debut in the ONE FC featherweight division with a commanding points decision over former belt holder Honorio Banario of the Philippines.
American lightweight Caros Fodor made quick work of his Dutch opponent Willy Ni, enacting a conclusive kimura submission in the later stages of the first round.
One of the night’s biggest surprises came in the featherweight match between Major Overall of the US and Brazilian Bruno Pucci. Many had fancied Evolve MMA team’s Pucci to comfortably wrap up his fourth straight victory, but BJJ purple belt Overall had other plans, exploding with punches and a perfectly timed kick to the face of his downed rival midway through the first round to pick up a deserved win.
A defining moment of the night came with a triumphant return to cage for hometown hero Radeem Rahman after a two-and-a-half year hiatus due to injury. The Evolve MMA bantamweight weathered a storm of punches and kicks in the first round against Malaysia’s Raymond Tan to produce an inspired take down and subsequent ground and pound until the referee dived in.
Sandwiched between these two knockouts was arguably the most disappointing bout between the two biggest men on show.
Britain’s towering Chi Lewis-Parry, a former professional basketball player making his ONE FC debut as a heavyweight, looked promising in the opening exchanges against the imposing figure of Alain “The Panther” Ngalani of Hong Kong. However, a mistimed knee from Parry caught Ngalani in the nether regions, and the fighter stayed down with an agonised expression to force officials to announce a no contest result.
On the undercard, American bantamweight Casey Suire completed a first-round submission via rear-naked choke of Singapore’s Stephen Langdown.
And Malaysia’s Nik Harris battled through his catchweight bout with Brad Robinson of the US to register a split decision victory.