Ben Askren’s long-awaited UFC debut delivered in just about every way possible on Saturday night.
The undefeated former ONE and Bellator welterweight champion squared off with former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 and it was one of the wildest sub-one-round fights you’ll ever see. Askren roared back from deep trouble against Lawler to finish the fight on a controversial submission call.
The time of the stoppage on a bulldog choke at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas was 3:20 of the opening round.
“Man, I’m not the referee,” Askren said. “My job is to fight.”
Askren implemented his wrestling game early, only to have Lawler pick him up in the clinch and issue a tremendous slam. Lawler went all out for the finish on the grounded Askren, as he cut Askren bad and dished out a high volume of punishment.
Askren, however, somehow survived and got back into the fight. Lawler did his best to fend Askren off in the clinch, but Askren moved to the bulldog choke position in an odd spot along the cage.
Referee Herb Dean, not getting an answer from Lawler, and seeing his left arm appear to go limp for a moment made the call to stop the fight. Lawler immediately protested the decision.
“Herb asked a couple times and said ‘Robbie are you okay?’ and nothing happened, so I thought maybe he was out,” Askren said. “I was freaking discombobulated, that slam landed me on my head a little bit it took some time to get me wits about me.”
Askren (19-0, 1 NC) took digs as his perceived nemesis, UFC president Dana White.
“I want to know how long until Dana b*tches about that stoppage because it’s going to be quick,” Askren said. “Hey Dana, is that the best you got?”
Lawler (28-13, 1 NC), who was fighting for the first time since Dec. 2017, has now dropped two straight and three of four.