The second billing on this card was a highly anticipated five round bout for the BFC 170-pound title. In a stylistic mashup, two-time NCAA wrestling champ Ben Askren, training out of The Den in Arizona, challenged Lyman Good, a Tigar Schulmann’s product from NYC and season one BFC champ (check our interview from that season). Two dominate fighters, both seemingly unstoppable: depending on your bias, Good seemed as likely to overwhelm with strikes as Askren did to get a quick submission or ground and pound. The stand-up/ wrestling dispute was once again settled but predictions of a quick overwhelming finish were way off.
While this fight lived up to the billing, it had some lulls that took away from the end result. This owes to many factors — not just Askren’s ability to dominate and stall on the ground — which he did — or his trepidation about attempting any finishing move. He admitted in the post fight press conference that he needs work finishing and that he “may punch like a girl” (he only starting hitting things with his hands last year, he explains). But the real problem is the incentive for Askren to apply what I call the ‘Lay and Stay busy’ approach and Good being seemingly unprepared to counter it. More on that latter...
It only took seconds for Askren to go for a takedown once the gloves touched. Good started out with a solid-looking guard and made it difficult for Askren to pass but couldn’t shake him enough to regain his stance. When he could push Askren away, Askren would stay close and work his way back through Good’s open guard. While Good’s guard was containing Askren, it couldn’t neutralize him enough to work for submission. However he did pepper him with reverse hammer punches, something he continued throughout the night, much of which he spent under Askren’s mount. They definitely had an impact (by the press conference Askren look like Sloth from The Goonies).
Askren kept up the attack, worked to mount before pressing down and trying to secure a head and arm triangle. Good was able to bridge up and turn Askren over, coming up in his guard before the round ended.
Good looked charged for the second round and had some success striking but couldn’t keep his poise and ended up getting taken down by Askren who quickly made it to mount. Here he employed his ‘Lay and Stay busy’ approach. As he was still fresh at this point, it had purpose to it, but in reality it was good for nothing more then wearing Good down. As the match progressed the pretense was dropped and it became clear that Askren had no intention of finishing. The climax of this occurred in the forth round when the referee stood the fighters up from the mount position, something that speaks volumes about the timid nature of Askren’s seemingly dominate position.
Askren’s game worked like this: While securing the mount tight he would isolate a wrist or arm of Good and pound with the opposite hand; sometimes, but less so as the fight progresses, he would reach back and go for bomb shots. He varied this by diving his head back down to Good’s chest or the mat above his head to smoother and re-secure the position. Good could only bridge (which had no chance of dislodging Askren) and throw the reverse hammer fist.
This continued past the forth round where Askren was forced out of the mount by the referee for stalling. Askren looked visibly gassed at this point and while Good didn’t look fresh, he definitely had the edge in stamina. Back on the feet Good was able to make some headway stunning Askren with some punches, sprawling for his life, keeping Askren off and following up with solid ground and pound. However Askren was able to get a hold of Good’s leg, turn the corner and ride out the rest of the round from the top of Good’s half guard.
Both fighters came out winded for the fifth round. Askren was able to get Good down but while working to pass the open guard caught an upkick that severely stunned him (he later claimed it didn’t hurt him, but his body hit the ground limply). He landed, parallel to Good, with his arm laying in between Good’s legs, offering a textbook omoplata. Instead Good yanked him into a triangle that, while sloppily secured, did get where it needed to be. Hurriedly, he abandoned the choke and began extending Askren’s trapped arm. Without throwing his leg over the head and properly committing to the joint lock, he arched back — painfully slow — and eventually rolled over his shoulder without the arm, trading a sure submission for nada. Amazingly a completely drained Askren fell back into mount and rode out the fight there to earn the decision victory.
So, we have a new 170-pound champ but… what does this all mean in the bigger picture?
While Askren’s stamina should be called into question after this fight, he shouldn’t be faulted for his ability to apply his specialty — within the rules — to win the fight. The obvious culprit for this fight being less of a competition then it was billed to be, to be fair, is Good. He came into the fight without crisp sprawls or not much else to get him out of ground trouble and that was a huge mistake to make against the man with the forth most pins in NCAA Division One history. When Tiger Schulmann’s MMA (TSMMA) first came on the scene, the knee jerk reactions of, ‘what is a McDojo doing in MMA’ where silenced by Good’s success. Now, however, it can seen that TSMMA is deficient on the ground — not for loosing to Askren but for being basically defenseless off the back. The fact that Good whiffed on three straight cupcake submissions on a half-conscious Askren seals that verdict.
Equally as damning was the referee decision to reset the fighters from Askren’s mount to a neutral standing position in the fourth round. While this may have been a bit of an overreach by the ref, it is one that the sanctioning bodies need to catch up to- all be it, in a uniform way. No one wants ‘I know it when I see it’ calls of offensive timidity but ‘Lay and Stay busy’ needs to weeded out. Askren deserves no fault for exploiting Good’s foul-up of preparation but the fans shouldn’t have to suffer for it either.
So what’s the answer? Hard to say, but there are some things that are clear. A fighter of Askren’s calibre shouldn’t be ‘pushed’ to finish the fight because it makes it more exciting, likewise their counterparts can’t be forced to acquire basic wrestling skills. Otherwise the entire country of England would need to bring in superior coaches (any gang of central PA high school wrestlers would do). What can be argued is that more value should be applied to damage inflicted (something that would have made a major difference in this fight), while this exposes fighters to the arbitrary circumstance of who gets cut easier loses points, that would merely be an extension of the arbitrary distinction of who gets KO’d easier loses fights. However, that should only mean a slight devaluing of control and slight empowering of damage inflicted. The rest will work itself out naturally. In this case, either Lyman Good will get his ground game together or he better move to England. Bottom line, the competition should drive the sport’s innovation, it only need be tweaked, if changed at all, to keep the fans happy in the mean time.