Perhaps the most intriguing matchup to be found on the entire UFC 235 fight-card will come as Ben Askren finally makes his UFC debut.
In the eyes of some, the answer to this age-old question may be arriving a bit too late – as the supposed athletic prime of the former Bellator and ONE champion ticks down.
At 34, Ben is no spring chicken – but with a game reliant on technique and skill as opposed to speed and athleticism, to be honest, it more than likely won’t be too much of an issue.
The amount of damage the fighter has absorbed (inside the cage at least) has been minimal.
On the other side of the octagon will be ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler, a man whose own career trajectory has seen him defy all of the expectations that would normally be associated with a fighter as keen on brawling as he has been.
The level of technique to be found in Lawler’s reckless approach has been the outstanding factor in his most recent UFC run – a run that saw him claim and hold the promotion’s welterweight title.
Against a fighter like Askren, however, there’s every chance that each and every tool in his arsenal is nullified completely.
It’s the classic striker-versus-grappler matchup but with an added layer of unknowns that gives this contest an entirely unique level of intrigue.
Can Askren take this massive step up in competition and fulfil the potential so many people see for him?
Or will Lawler use his power and veteran savvy to keep the famously persistent wrestler off of him for three rounds – or as long as it takes to get the job done?
Well, as far as predictions go, this fight is well up there with the hardest I’ve ever had to pick.
So much is uncertain about both guys. We didn’t see Lawler in action in 2018 after his late-2017 decision to the former lightweight Rafael dos Anjos and with Askren, as sure as I am that he has been in the gym since his ‘retirement’ in 2017, he hasn’t faced a fighter who posed a threat to him in years.
Both guys could come out here looking very different from the last time we saw them in action, but if I’m being forced to nail down a pick – I’m going to side with Ben Askren.
I just think the technique he possesses is on another level and he has been waiting for his entire career to make it to the UFC. I don’t think there will be any questions over who wants it more on Saturday.
As much as Lawler is still very much a huge threat to Ben, we haven’t seen that same fire from him since he lost the belt to current-champ Tyron Woodley back at UFC 201.
It might not be pretty, but expect a tour-de-force in the grappling arts from The Funky One.
Prediction: Ben Askren by unanimous decision.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena