UFC 239: Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal and the Future of the Welterweight Division

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Ben Askren UFC 235
Ben Askren Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

We’ll be witnessing a turning point in the welterweight division at UFC 239 when Ben Askren faces Jorge Masvidal.

The welterweight division is one of the most exciting divisions in all of MMA. Currently stacked with fighters like Kamaru Usman, Rory McDonald, Tyrone Woodley, Darren Till, Stephen Thompson, Anthony Pettis, Douglas Lima, Rafael Dos Anjos and more, the division brings in a talent pool deep enough to feed two of the most popular MMA organizations, Bellator and the UFC. This weekend, two of the strongest contenders of the division, Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren, will lock horns in a match that can open multiple possibilities for the division.

Entering the fight with strong momentum is Jorge Masvidal. “Gamebred” enters the fight off a highlight-reel knockout over former title challenger Darren Till in his last fight. The American Top Team product has been a stalwart in the division for over years, but hasn’t been able to string up a streak strong enough to secure a title shot. A win over Askren places him in a position where he can demand a title-eliminator matchup. If he were to win, he will most probably be matched up against the Rafael Dos Anjos-Leon Edwards winner or Anthony Pettis.

Askren is an interesting case. He had a lot of hype around him before entering the UFC and was one of the few fighters outside of the company to be considered amongst the best in the world. It is he who enters with all the attention in the match-up, not all of it being positive. In his last match, Askren clashes with former champion and pound-for-pound stalwart Robbie Lawler. The match ended with a controversial submission call from the referee, as Lawler claimed he hadn’t tapped out. What took more away from the legitimacy of Askren’s win was the fact that Lawler was dominating the match up until the point where he got caught in the submission. A Masvidal win will also re-establish the faith fans have in former contenders and will reserve some space for elite fighters who haven’t performed well in their last outings.

A win for Askren will give the division a new direction. The division itself has seen multiple strong changes in the past few months as multiple upsets have been seen. Some of the popular ones being Anthony Pettis knocking out Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal knocking out Darren Till. The fact that the division has a very new champion in Kamaru Usman also promotes major change in the division. A win by Askren will be the last push the division needs to change the entire structure of the weight class.

The field will become open for new contenders. Some like Leon Edwards, Mike Perry, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and others will get the room to mature into the title picture. The new champion will get a new set of fighters to deal with.

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