COLUMBIA — Former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren said he was confident entering his professional Mixed Martial Arts debut, and it turns out he should have been.
Askren defeated Josh Flowers by technical knockout at the 1 minute, 25 second mark of the first round of his fight in an 11-match event Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Expo Center.
Flowers got in the first blow, but when he tried to land another shot, Askren took him down and followed with a flurry of punches to Flowers’ head. Soon after, the referee stopped the fight.
“You kind of have to worry about getting hit, but he hit me, and really that felt kind of good,” said Askren, who chose the name Ben "Funky" Asken for his fight. “I waited for him to throw that second punch, took him down and finished him off real hard.”
Askren, who wrestled in this summer's Beijing Olympics, was known for his takedowns on his way to a pair of NCAA national titles for the Tigers and said after the match that he believes he can take down anyone he fights in MMA.
Askren wasn’t the only former Missouri wrestler to make his professional MMA debut on Saturday. Two-time All-American Tyron Woodley also fought beating his opponent by knockout in 1:09. Woodley works out with Askren at American Top Team, an MMA training facility.
“I’ve been behind the scenes for a while,” Woodley said. “I’ve been training a lot of guys. I’ve been training a lot of high-level fighters, but you get to the time where it’s your time to shine.”
Woodley said he was excited to make his debut in Columbia. He hopes he doesn’t have to wait long for his next fight.
“Ben, I’m surprised, he was running around doing stuff during the event,” Woodley said. “It’s good to see that kind of composure. Anybody who can be that composed can become a dangerous fighter.”
Askren said he still considers himself a wrestler, but he is focused on fighting.
“You can’t get punched in the face in wrestling. It was fun. It was a blast," Askren said. "I had a great time.”
Askren said he is planning to fight next on April 25.