There is a consistent game plan when it comes to fighting Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. The idea is he's got no stand up, so if you block the takedown, you'll finish him.
Karl 'Pyscho' Amoussou, after winning the Summer Series tournament to earn a title shot, threw around words at Askren's manhood that you rarely hear past high school in the build up to the title fight on Thursday night at the WinStar World Casino in Thackervlle, Okla. for Bellator 86. In the end, he became the eleventh opponent to come in with the game plan, but be completely lost at actually implementing it.
After three rounds, Amoussou's face could be confused for hamburger meat after being pounded on with punches and elbows on the ground, before the ringside doctor recommended to referee Jason Herzog to stop the fight with Amoussou's left eye on the verge of being swollen completely shut before round four started.
Askren (11-0), arguably the second best American college wrestler of the last 15 years (behind Cael Sanderson), showed glimpses of at least the beginnings of a stand up game for the brief moments the fight was upright. But far more importantly, he showed three rounds of evidence of a vastly improved striking game while on top in carving up Amoussou's forehead with his elbows and hard punches. Amoussou was left bleeding badly from the forehead and swelling from several spots on his face from midway through round one.
Most of the second round was target practice, and the fight was on the verge of being stopped as time ran down. Between rounds, after Amoussou's eye was examined, the doctor let it go. But referee Herzog warned Amoussou they were going to monitor the eye before allowing him to come out for round three.
Askren got the takedown right away and spent five more minutes in a cage that turned into a butcher shop, largely turning the championship battle from a fight to ground and pound practice on the gym wrestling dummy. Amoussou (16-5-2) in three rounds never came close to being able to get off his back. While he survived the round, the damage was such that the fight was stopped.
"I told you guys it was just a matter of time until my hands got some power in them," said Askren, who not only won two NCAA titles at the University of Missouri, but also two Hodge Trophies. "I'm dominant positionally and my hands got power. If you've got a welterweight anywhere in the world, you'd better watch out. I'm coming."
Amoussou came out fast in round one, connecting on several punches, but all it took was for him to throw a kick to be off balance enough for Askren to get the takedown. From there, the fight was all about Askren's top control. In the second round, Askren did land a couple of punches in answering back Amoussou's shots before going for a takedown. He didn't complete it, wound up on the bottom and Amoussou had his one dangerous moment of the fight, locking on a heel hook. Amoussou actually looked at Herzog to stop the fight, but Askren rolled out and moved to the top. Askren took over from there.
Barring injury, Askren will next defend his title against Andrey Koreshkov (13-0), a 22-year-old Russian who won the season 7 eight-man tournament that ended on Nov. 30.
The welterweight champion acknowledged that future battle by channeling one of the greatest fictitious Russian fighters of all-time, Rocky IV's Ivan Drago.
"I've got a Russian that I need to handle some business with. So I must break you!"
Askren was part of a double feature on the second Bellator show on Spike TV. In the other half, "King" Mo Lawal (9-1, 1 no contest), who made headlines last year by signing a dual MMA and pro wrestling contract, knocked out Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-8) at 3:52 of the first round in his Bellator debut. With the win, Lawal advanced to the semifinals of the light heavyweight tournament.
The version of Lawal who one year ago knocked out Lorenz Larkin in Strikeforce, figured to be the class of this season's field. But there were all kinds of questions given Lawal had more than 20 surgeries on his left knee that encountered a near fatal staph infection stemming from reconstructive surgery after his win.
There really weren't a lot of answers given as Lawal stayed flat footed, calmly defending for a few minutes, before landing some jabs that bloodied the overmatched Mysiala's nose. Lawal dropped his Polish opponent with an uppercut and it was clear Mysiala was done.
Lawal, who wrestled at Oklahoma State University and earned international titles in wrestling before going into MMA, never tested his knee, and at no point ventured into trying any wrestling. Lawal next faces Emanuel Newton (19-7), who advanced to the semifinals of the tournament with a win over Atanas Djambazov on Jan. 17.
"I had no strategy," said Lawal, the local favorite on the show since he was a junior college national champion in wrestling at Central Oklahoma, and an All-American at Oklahoma State. "My goal was to come out and knock him out."
The other key matches were first round scraps in the welterweight tournament.
In matches that didn't air on television, Raul Amaya (12-1) stopped Jose Gomes (32-10-1) with punches at 3:12 of the first round, and Brent Weedman (21-8-1) won a decision with scores of 29-27 across the board over former Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis (19-8).
Douglas Lima (23-5), who Askren pegged as the favorite in the tournament, took out the wheels of Russian Michail Tsarev (24-4) with low kicks before the match was stopped at 1:44 of the second round. Lima's hard low kicks knocked Tsarev off his feet. Lima backed off and told him to get back up. Tsarev struggled to his feet, with his left leg barely being able to support him. After being knocked down with another low kick, Tsarev was limping noticeably. After yet another kick, he went right back down. He looked finished but Lima backed off and Tsarev struggled one more time to his feet, and at this point it appeared he was in no condition to fight. Lima kicked him once more in the leg, Tsarev went down again, and Hezog mercifully ended it.
The last quarterfinal saw former UFC fighter Ben Saunders (15-5-2) win an obvious decision, taking 30-27 scores on all three judges cards, over Koffi Azditso (18-10), a native of Togo.
Lima vs. Weedman and Amaya vs. Saunders will be the tournament semifinals.
"I think Douglas Lima is the best guy there," said Askren. "Ben Saunders will probably meet him in the finals. He's (Lima) got a tough fight with Weedman."