Ben Askren’s debut was bloody, and marred by a questionable referee stoppage, but ultimately he got the win at UFC 235.
It had been a long time coming. Years in the making. Ben Askren’s UFC debut finally arrived on Saturday night at UFC 235 in Las Vegas. Many thought it was a day that would never come. Askren, a former Bellator welterweight champion, pursued his UFC dream after leaving that promotion. Or more accurately, after Bjorn Rebney very publicly trashed his champ and failed to re-sign him. That in part was likely a promoter trying to devalue a fighter who was going to leave anyway.
Yet what happened after that, few expected. A nasty feud between Askren and UFC President Dana White, after White suggested Askren get some experience over in the WSOF. Askren took a better deal in Asia with ONE Championship, earning the welterweight title there. He did nothing but win.
Then he retired. And that was the end of the story, until a surprise trade between the UFC and ONE Championship. Askren for Demetrious Johnson. Which brought us to UFC 235. Askren made his debut against Robbie Lawler in Las Vegas.
In his UFC debut, Askren would get the win. But it wasn’t pretty.
Lawler turned the tables early on Ben Askren. Askren went for a single, but couldn’t land it. Lawler scooped him up, however, and slammed him down. Lawler then turned it on, bloodying Ben Askren badly. It looked over. Somehow, it wasn’t. Askren survived, and got back up, but his face was a mask of blood. Askren then pressed his opponent against the fence. However bending down for a leg, he ate a knee from Lawler. Askren would then latch on with a single leg, transition to a double, and look to take the back. He slipped in a rear-naked choke, but Lawler partially escaped. However, Askren sank in a bulldog choke! It looked, looked, like Lawler was out! His arm hit the canvas, and ref Herb Dean called it off – only for Lawler to immediately protest!
— UFC (@ufc) March 3, 2019
Still, Askren had the win. After the fight, ‘Funky’ said in the octagon that “what I want to know, how long til Dana bitches about that stoppage, because it better be quick!” Then added “Hey Dana, is that the best you got?”
On the stoppage question, Askren said that the ref asked “‘Robbie are you okay?'” only for nothing to happen. “I’m not the referee, my job is to come in here and fight,” he added.
Ben Askren def. Robbie Lawler by submission (bulldog choke), Round 1, 3:20