Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren will collide on the UFC 239 main-card in a matchup that could well single out one as the next challenger to Kamaru Usman’s throne.
And while it would have perhaps seemed like Colby Covington’s shot at the belt was set in stone given his status as the division’s one-time interim-champ, I don’t think anyone is under any illusions about the importance of this fight and how it may sway Dana and co.
Askren might not have always had the best relationship with the UFC brass and, in particular, its president, but there’s no doubt that both parties are nothing less than delighted with how this move has panned out for all involved so far.
Ben’s UFC debut saw him overcomes some serious adversity to regain momentum from the former champion Robbie Lawler in a fight that – despite the controversy – stood as one of the most thrilling comebacks you will ever see.
Masvidal, on the other hand, does seem to be in a resurgence of late after his KO of Darren Till at UFC London earlier this year but even with that being the case, it’s important to note that his victory over the Englishman was preceded by a long layoff that came after back-to-back defeats to Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia.
With that being said, the Masvidal who fought Darren Till looked better than ever in there and as he said himself in recent interviews – the lessons he learned from fighting a grappler like Maia will in some ways allow him to be that bit more prepared for a guy like Askren.
So how does this one pan out?
Well, like any stylistic clash featuring two contrasting styles, there’s every chance that the winner of this fight is going to have an absolute field-day while implementing his gameplan.
I’m not going to say that the edge that Masvidal holds over Askren in the striking department is much bigger than the difference in their abilities on the mat but the danger that Jorge will be able to pose to his opponent will always be a worry if this one is standing.
If Askren can dominate here, I would still count on Gamebred to survive until the final bell.
If Masvidal dominates, things could get ugly.
With that being said, I think Ben Askren is the better fighter of the two and in this battle where each man will attempt to inflict their style on one another, the high-level wrestler should have enough in his locker to completely nullify the striker.
I can see Ben showing us exactly why he deserves to fight for UFC gold with this one.
Prediction: Ben Askren by unanimous decision.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena