The April 17 bout from Triller Fight Club between Jake Paul and Ben Askren is approaching, and oddsmakers actually have the YouTuber-turned-boxer as the slight favorite over the Olympic wrestler and UFC veteran. Many MMA personalities seem to agree as well, with promoter Scott Coker, and fighters such as Leon Edwards and Demetrious Johnson, all predicting a win for Paul.
Firas Zahabi has an opposing view though. According to the renowned MMA coach, even if Askren isn’t a very technical striker, his experience and durability sparring and fighting for years means he can remain calm and take shots better than his opponent.
“I think Ben Askren wins,” Zahabi said on his YouTube channel. “Here’s why, I saw Jake Paul’s last fight, he’d knocked out some guy with a couple overhand rights, stunned him a few times, dropped him. But here’s where Jake Paul — I don’t think he knows what he’s getting into. Number one, Ben Askren is a wrestler, yes and his forte is not striking, we all know that. He’s not the greatest striker. But he’s been in there with killers. He’s been in there with like legitimately dangerous human beings.
“Robbie Lawler, Douglas Lima — I can go on and on the list is super long. He’s been in there with real killers, and I know he didn’t use boxing, but he took shots from these guys… it was some serious shots. Ben Askren never wavered,” Zahabi explains. “The computer was still working, he didn’t panic. He’s a true competitor.
“He’s been training in MMA, he’s been learning how to strike. Let’s call it fifteen years, he’s been striking — let’s call it ten years, let’s be very reserved here,” Zahabi said. “It’s not only boxing offense that’s the issue. I guarantee you that he takes a shot better than Jake, I can guarantee you that, I’m guaranteeing you that right now.
“So Jake’s gonna go in there, and in the first two, three rounds he’s gonna be dancing around and he’s gonna jab Askren. He’s gonna look alright, he’s gonna look good. Askren’s gonna hit him and back it’s gonna be a give and take. But here’s what Jake doesn’t know, Askren has proven that he’s got an incredible chin.”
Paul will be bigger, stronger and younger. A lot of people also peg him to be the more technical boxer in the match up. So how can Askren bridge that gap? Apart from tapping into his deeper fight experience, Zahabi also believes that the wrestler will try to make it an ugly fight, and might even resort to “dirty” tricks to wear Paul down.
“Ben Askren is going to maul him in the clinch, dirty box him. He’s going to get warned by the referee, but it doesn’t matter,” Zahabi said.
“Barring the exception that Askren’s chin is finished (after that Masvidal KO), Askren is going to maul him. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s going to be a dirty fight. It’s going to be a seesaw battle a little bit early on, then all of a sudden Jake is going to fatigue and Ben Askren will be all over him.
“He’ll throw him on the floor, ragdoll him. Maybe even picks up and slams Jake Paul once or twice. It would not surprise me. Ben Askren probably doesn’t have a clause where if he gets disqualified, he doesn’t get paid. In my opinion, Ben Askren doesn’t care if he gets disqualified,” Zahabi said. “He’s going to pull on his head, step on his feet — shove him so he’s off balanced, and it’s going to be a mauling.
“How is he gonna pick and poke, stick and move and stay away from Askren? Once they lock up, once they lock up, I guarantee you, Jake’s battery is going to start to drain.”
Paul is 2-0 as a professional boxer, and 1-0 as an amateur. The decorated wrestler in Askren is 19-2 in his MMA career.
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