Unbeaten Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren
has his next test, and it will be against his most seasoned opponent yet.
Askren, who won the promotion's Season 2 welterweight tournament to earn a date with champ Lyman Good, whom he beat to win the title in October, will face UFC veteran Nick Thompson
at Bellator 40 in April. Bellator made the fight official on Wednesday – though it will be a non-title fight.
Askren (7-0), a 2008 Olympic wrestler and two-time NCAA Division I national champion at the University of Missouri, won his first four MMA bouts with first-round stoppages. But his wins over Ryan Thomas at Bellator 19, Hornbuckle and Good have all been decisions – using his superior wrestling to dominate on the ground.
"Ben's been completely dominant in every fight he's had under the Bellator banner, and Nick has run the MMA gauntlet in his career, fighting everywhere and everyone," said Bellator chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney in a release from the promotion. "He will be a fantastic test for Ben."
Askren, whose confidence in his abilities early in his career hasn't been in question – to the point of being criticized by some for a perceived arrogance – said he's not looking at Thopmson's record.
"I come to fight every single time," Askren said. "Whether you're good or you're bad, I still want to smash you, and it's going to be the same thing when I fight Nick Thompson. It doesn't matter what his record is, I'm looking to kick his ass."
Thompson (38-13-1) is a veteran of more than 50 pro fights, but has lost three straight. He was submitted by Tim Kennedy in Strikeforce's second Challengers show in June 2009. Three months later, he lost by TKO to Dan Hornbuckle, whom Askren beat in the Bellator Season 2 welterweight tourney finals, at Sengoku 10. And in August, he was knocked out by Taisuke Okuno at Sengoku Raiden Championships 14.
Prior to his three straight setbacks, Thompson had been on a four-year tear, going 22-2. His only losses in that stretch came to Karo Parisyan at UFC 59 and Jake Shields in an EliteXC welterweight title fight. Along the way, he picked up notable wins over current Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to win the Bodog Fight welterweight title, and beat Paul Daley at an MFC event in Canada.
"I think the biggest advantage for me in this fight with Ben is the fact that I've fought more than 50 fights," Thompson said. "I've fought in every organization, I've fought against the best fighters in the world, and I've been ranked in the Top 10. Ben hasn't been there. I plan on hitting him like he's never been hit before and I'm excited to find out how he's going to react."
Bellator 40 will air live on MTV2 on April 9 under the promotion's new deal with the network, which will have events airing on Saturdays instead of the Thursday format of its first three seasons. Bellator 40 will take place at the First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla.