Prior to his Bellator 64 title fight, welterweight champion Ben Askren talked about flashing improvements to his striking, but when it came time to fight, he showed that he's going to continue to focus on his wrestling strength until someone stops him. To date, no one has. Add Douglas Lima to that list, as his latest challenger went down in yet another unanimous decision win for Askren.
The four-time collegiate wrestling All-American wasn't able to take Lima down at will, but his relentless style virtually ensured that Lima was going down eventually. Even if it didn't work, he took space away from Lima, not allowing him to fire off offense.
Askren did spend the majority of the fight on top, throwing short strikes and elbows while Lima tried to find a way out, but that was mostly like drowning in quicksand; a lot of effort with no hope.
Askren (10-0) never truly had Lima in danger, and in fact, his inability to damage him led to several standups, but the fight inevitably would end up again on the mat. If Lima had one good moment in the fight, it was late in the third round after a ref standup when he landed a knee to the face as Askren waded in. That was his last gasp though, as he seemed to run out of gas over the last two rounds. All three judges scored the bout 50-45 for the defending champion, who has won his last six fights by decision.
The fight was not well received by the fans, who watched three straight main card decisions leading up to it, but that was little concern to Askren.
"If you don't like the groundwork, there's a sport called boxing," Askren said after the win. "It's not as fun though, so I suggest you continue to come here and watch my ass-whippings."
Meanwhile, Bellator's featherweight tournament has its first finalist, as Marlon Sandro captured a split-decision win over Alexandre "Popo" Bezerra, 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.
Most of the bout took place standing, with Sandro the initiator while Bezerra spent most of his time hunting a left hook counter. After that tactic stalled out, Bezerra turned up his aggression in the third and scored with a takedown as well as a flash knockdown, but two of the judges thought it was too little, too late, valuing Sandro's consistent offense.
Earlier in the evening, Hiroshio Nakamura became the first bantamweight tournament semifinalist, using a series of takedowns to get past Rodrigo Lima in a 29-27, 29-27, 29-27 decision.
This was the type of fight that leads to scoring debate, because Nakamura (15-5-4) was made to withstand a series of submission attempts from Lima, who worked aggressively from the bottom for most of the fight's three rounds, leaving Nakamura to play defense quite often, even though he had top position. Lima's closest attempt came in the third, when he attacked with a kimura near the cage, but Nakamura eventually worked his way out.
The loss was the first of Lima's pro career, as he fell to 10-1.
The fight was competitive, but Marx earned more takedowns and Ueda struggled to make anything happen from the bottom. When Ueda got takedowns, he couldn't hold Marx down for any sustained periods of time. Both fighters had their moments in the standup, but Marx left looking the worse for wear with a mouse under his left eye at the closing bell.
Ueda had been a sizable favorite heading into the fight, having won seven of eight leading into it. The loss was only the second of his career, as he fell to 15-2-2.
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