ONE CHAMPIONSHIP: SHANGHAI, scheduled for 2 September at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, is the promotion’s inaugural event in one of China’s biggest cities.
The highly-anticipated show is set to feature reigning ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren of the United States, as he defends his title against Swedish kickboxer Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam.
Before he steps back onto the battlefield this September, let’s take a look at three of Askren’s most inspiring performances inside the ONE Championship cage.
#3 Surviving Nikolay Aleksakhin’s Onslaught In Manila
Askren is often criticized for a style that is heavily reliant on his world-class wrestling skills, but you can’t blame the American for sticking to what he excels at.
The undefeated welterweight is a former US Olympian and collegiate wrestling star. He acquired his moniker “Funky” due to his unique style of wrestling, and as a result, opponents find it difficult to get a fix on Askren’s rhythm and pace.
Against Russian adversary Nikolai Aleksakhin in Manila, Askren had to use his wrestling to offset Aleksakhin’s advantage in power. For almost five whole rounds, Askren took Aleksakhin down to the mat and pounded away. To Aleksakhin’s credit, he never wavered in his bid to score an upset, remaining competitive all the way to the final bell.
In the final round, however, near the end of the contest, Aleksakhin connected on a couple of telling blows that forced Askren onto his bicycle. That is where the American proved his grit and heart of a champion, persevering to grind away and score the unanimous decision victory.
#2 Taking The Belt From Nobutatsu Suzuki
In just his second appearance for ONE Championship, Askren took to the stage in Dubai, as he challenged then-titleholder Nobutatsu Suzuki for the ONE Welterweight World Championship.
Fresh off a spectacular debut performance against Bakhtiyar Abbasov in Singapore, Askren was looking to claim ONE Championship gold and continue his dominant run as one of the best welterweights in the world.
A reigning champion in the United States who vacated his title to join the promotion, fans already expected him to soon challenge for the belt, and he wouldn’t let them down. Askren made quick work of Suzuki, taking the Japanese veteran to the ground, mere seconds into the first round, and unleashed devastating ground-and-pound until the referee had no choice but to step in and call a halt to the contest.
Askren earned a technical knockout victory for his efforts, and was crowned the new ONE Welterweight World Champion. More importantly, the win signified the beginning of Askren’s dominant title reign, which has stretched all the way till today.
#1 Taming “The Alligator”
Much was made of Agilan Thani’s rapid rise through the welterweight ranks. The young Malaysian star had a fairy-tale storyline entering the matchup, having been bullied for being massively overweight as a teenager, only to change his life through martial arts.
Though he was a huge underdog against Askren, Thani was on a seven-bout winning streak, and looked virtually untouchable against his opponents. All of his wins had come by way of stoppage, with six of them in the very first round.
Against Askren however, Thani was simply no match. Operating behind his world-class wrestling, Askren dragged Thani to the ground effortlessly, and pummelled away from his signature mounted crucifix position. By sheer force of will, Thani was able to find his way back up to his feet, which surprised Askren, but didn’t faze him. The champion took Thani right back down to the ground within seconds.
“Funky” proceeded to put an emphatic exclamation point on his performance with a slick arm triangle choke, ending things within minutes of round one. Thani put up a valiant effort in his first-ever title shot. The heart and the determination was there, but the gap in talent was just too wide.
With the ONE Championship belt draped over his shoulder, Askren continues to build his legacy with every bout. He is virtually unchallenged and unbeaten so far in his eight years as a professional, and there are no signs of him slowing down.
Shanghai | 2 September | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com