In a boxing fight that the MMA world seemingly has a vested interest in, former Bellator and ONE champion Ben Askren will look to overcome the younger and faster social media superstar Jake Paul.
Saturday’s Askren vs. Paul boxing contest will see plenty of reality offset by fantasy, and it won’t be clear exactly which is which until long after the event is over. Going in, one would assume the reality is that a man trained for years in combat sports should know all the nuances of the fight game necessary to effectively overcome a younger and faster foe. The expected fantasy is that the braggadocios young man known more for his social media persona can not only succeed, but also entice far more decorated fighters to face him and build him into one of the biggest pugilistic stars of the new decade.
On-paper, Ben Askren’s credentials suggest he possesses all the knowledge even on a bad day to defeat Jake Paul. He is a former Bellator and ONE champion with a 19-2 record who has defeated the likes of Robbie Lawler, Douglas Lima, and Andrey Koreshkov. In 20 fights, trained athletes have gone in with the intent to hit him in the face and Askren emerged without taking a loss. By comparison, Paul’s last three opponents across amateur and professional bouts have a combined record of 0-3. Of those three, only one would be primarily considered an athlete.
Then there are the facts you can see with your own eyes. Askren’s striking, by design, has never come anywhere near his grappling. In his final fight, he was out struck by another man who was not known for his prowess on the feet in Demian Maia. He enters the bout as an athlete twice retired and who needed a hip replacement after the injuries he had accumulated. Askren is 36 years old, and he enters looking all of them after a lifetime of competing in the grinding sports of wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Enter Jake Paul, who along with his older brother Logan has been the catalyst for a new wave of interest in celebrity boxing not seen in many years. In the world of turning a digital presence into real world dollars, Paul has been a dominant champion since before he was legally able to drink. He understands brand building; he has long dismissed any notion that he is a soft-spoken young man and embraced the loud and crass persona that he has dubbed “The Problem Child”.
It is this approach that has turned him into a lightening rod of attention, and he has conducted that electricity to great effect. Through his success, he has surpassed his brother Logan in their boxing venture. His knockout of Nate Robinson was one of the biggest sports highlights of 2020. Outside the ring, he has taken aim at seemingly the perfect targets and has the financial backing of Triller to entice them to step away from their careers to meet him in the squared circle. A win over Askren is expected to set up a match with the younger and more lucrative bout with Dillon Danis in his next outing, with the expectation that a more relevant combat sports star could be next.
The routes to victory are expected to be simple. Askren should look to wear down Paul in the clinch as frequently as possible. Most importantly, he must keep a disciplined defense upon every entry and break as Paul will undoubtedly look to do the most damage in those moments. This will likely come down to the referee as it can vary how much time fighters are given to work depending on the official. For Paul, he should look to pick his moments to explode as his biggest risk is tiring himself out early trying to bulldoze Askren. He is bigger and faster, and at mid-range he is expected to wreak the most havoc if he can keep the fight at that distance.