Exclusive – Ben Askren Dumbfounded by Colby Covington’s Performance at UFC 296, Talks Strickland/Du Plessis Brawl

Askren was left confused by many of the decisions that both Covington and Edwards made in their lackluster title fight.

Ben Askren
Courtesy of @FloGrappling on X

Ben Askren was just as confused by Colby Covington’s game plan at UFC 296 as everyone else. 

After nearly two years of sitting on the sidelines, ‘Chaos’ returned to the Octagon, challenging reigning and defending welterweight world champion Leon Edwards. Many pundits favored Covington ahead of fight night, believing that his impeccable wrestling and impressive cardio would be the deciding factor. Unfortunately, neither one showed up on Saturday night. 

Instead, Covington offered up a lackluster performance that saw him concede control of the contest to ‘Rocky’ from the get-go. In the end, Edwards would retain his title with a decisive 49-46 score on all three judge’s cards. 

Sharing his taking on the UFC 296 headliner in a MiddleEasy exclusive interview with James Lynch, Ben Askren admitted to feeling like both fighters essentially phoned it in at different points in the contest. 

“I don’t know what his strategy was,” Askren said. “I think the best strategy for victory for him was to make cardio a factor, get the takedowns, and stay on top which is what he did in the fifth round, but I think Leon kind of said, ‘I’m gonna concede this round, I’ve won this fight.’ That type of thing, which I don’t know if that was the right move by him, but that’s what he did. 

“It looked like he was kind of fearful of Leon’s striking, stayed back, and never got in the groove. Even in those grappling exchanges, later on, Leon proved himself to be more than formidable. I think there were a few times when he even got over-aggressive or overconfident and ended up in a bad position because of it. On Leon’s end, I really wish he would have turned it up at some point. I think we all came away from the fight with the notion that he’s the better fighter, but if he really would have pressed it, it feels like he could have landed a lot more punches and strikes. He was content to win and not dominate.”

What comes next for Colby Covington is already on the minds of fighters and fans alike. Some, like Chael Sonnen, believe we’ve seen the last of ‘Chaos’ inside the Octagon. However, Askren believes there are plenty of interesting matchups that can put Covington right back in the mix.

Specifically a clash with undefeated standout Shavkat Rakhmonov

“Maybe Shavkat,” Askren said. “I don’t know if Shavkat would take the fight. The one that makes sense is if you go Leon vs. Belal and then you go Shavkat vs. Covington and if Colby were to beat Shavkat, maybe he gets another title shot because that is someone who would make you worthy of that. 

“Stephen Thompson is older. He’s kind of on the downhill a little bit if you look at his record. I like him so it pains me to say that, but maybe Sean Brady or someone to that effect. But I think the one that makes sense is Leon vs. Belal and Shavkat vs. Colby and the winner gets next.”

Ben Askren Offers His Take on Sean Strickland vs. Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297

Turning his attention to the other big news story at UFC 296, Ben Askren offered his take on the full-blown brawl that broke out at UFC 296 between the current middleweight champion, Sean Strickland, and his first challenger, Dricus Du Plessis. 

“I thought it was obvious him and Du Plessis were going to fight in the crowd,” Askren said. “The second I saw them, I thought, wait. Why the hell are those two sitting so close together? This is a terrible idea. They should not be close together.”

The catalyst for Strickland’s sudden attack at T-Mobile arena appears to have been a rather vile comment Du Plessis made about Strickland’s history of growing up in an abusive home. ‘Tarzan’ lambasted Du Plessis on social media, making it clear that there are lines that even he refuses to cross.

“I think he says a lot of wise things,” Askren said of Sean Strickland’s special brand of trash-talk. “I said last week that he was the voice of reason at that press conference when he said he doesn’t care about [the fans]. He tries to push the Trump MAGA train to get people on his side, but Colby’s not a good person. He is genuinely a bad human being. Everyone in the game knows that.

“Sean Strickland knows that. Jon Jones knows that. People on opposite sides, they all know Colby sucks so Sean Strickland said he doesn’t actually care. He’s not one of you. That guy, he’s a scumbag. So I thought that was good.”

As for how he sees things playing out when Strickland and Du Plessis scrap at UFC 297 in Toronto next month, the former Bellator MMA and ONE world champion is picking the champ, but has admitted to fading DDP one too many times in the past.

“That one should be fun,” he added. “I have been wrong on Du Plessis a whole bunch of times. I feel like Sean Strickland is going to win, but I’ve been absolutely wrong a handful of times.”

Askren Talks the Title Reign of Islam Makhachev

Shifting gears to the lightweight division, Askren, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of MMA, was asked about reigning champion Islam Makhachev. Specifically, whether or not he sees anyone in the division besting the ‘Dagestani Destroyer’ at some point.

“At some point, if he sticks around, he will lose, but is he gonna do the Khabib and not stick around? He’s only 32 which is getting toward the upperside, but not over the hill yet so it’ll be interesting to see if he retires before he loses. If he does not retire, he’ll lose at some point,” Askren said.

Makahchev is fresh off his second-straight win over featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 294, finishing ‘The Great’ in the first round with a brutal head kick in Abu Dhabi.

Watch the full exclusive interview below:

Published on December 20, 2023 at 5:42 pm
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