LAS VEGAS – Given that UFC newcomer Ben Askren garnered a fair amount of the media attention heading into UFC 235 this week, his fight with Robbie Lawler was a feature attraction. What the UFC didn’t need was the fight to end in controversy.
After weathering an initial offensive blitz from Lawler, Askren was able to recover enough to reset. Midway through the first round, he took Lawler down to the canvas, and moments later sunk a bulldog choke on the former champion.
As Askren was squeezing the choke, referee Herb Dean came in to gauge whether or not Lawler was fending it off. When he got close to check, Lawler’s arm and shoulder appeared to go limp for a brief second. That was all Dean needed to stop the fight.
Almost instantaneously, Lawler sprang to his feet and protested the stoppage to Dean.
UFC president Dana White was asked about the stoppage during the UFC 235 post-fight press conference at the T-Mobile Arena.
“Bad stoppage,” White said. “You know, we had a debate — me, the referee and the commission — over being choked out. I’ve been choked out many times before, too. And one of the things you don’t do, is jump right up and say, ‘what the f—k did you just do?’ It never happens that way.
“That was a bad stoppage, it happens. What are you going to do? It sucks, it was a good fight.”
White said that ideally he’d like to run back a rematch between Lawler and Askren to get resolution. Asked what he though of Askren’s performance aside from the controversy, White said Askren showed him something to withstand the beating he took in the opening minute of the fight.
“Obviously Askren’s tough as nails,” he said. “Lawler hit him with some...I mean, you guys saw him after, he looked like he’d been hit by a bus. And that damage was done in the first few seconds of the first round, and he came back. I don’t agree with the stoppage, like I said earlier. But it happens. These things happen, but he’s a tough guy.”