Nobody who has seen Ben Askren fight, or knows about his pedigree as one of the best collegiate wrestlers of recent vintage, would refer to him as a striker.

Duke Roufus, one of the game's best striking coaches, says those folks are in for a surprise.

Wrestling is always going to be the staple for Askren, the Bellator welterweight champion and a member of Team USA in the 2008 Olympics at Beijing. But those who saw Askren in his early days could see an accomplished striker when he defends his title tonight at Bellator 64 in Windsor, Canada, against Douglas Lima.

"He has hammers for hands," Roufus said. "I've sparred with Ben myself and I was unpleasantly surprised after getting hit by him. A lot of people sleep on Ben's striking. He's not an intimidating looking guy and he looks just like an average Joe. But believe me when I tell you, we have a lot of really good strikers at Roufusport and they'll all attest that he's a formidable opponent striking."

Askren was 8-0 and already the Bellator champion when he started to work with Roufus in August. With a fight slated in two months, Roufus didn't want to tear Askren's game apart completely.

He added little touches as best he could to prepare Askren for his bout with Jay Hieron, which he won by split decision.

But with five months of work in the gym, Roufus said it will be a different man on display tonight.

"He's got a great aptitude for fighting and he is one of those guys who, day after day, you see the improvement," Roufus said. "He picks up on the little things real well and you can see it. It's ridiculous how he picks up on things."

Askren has worked assiduously to make himself into a complete fighter. He was devastated after losing in the Olympics and had a difficult time accepting it. He decided to try MMA, knowing that if he didn't care for it, he could still continue preparations for the 2012 London Games.

And while he admittedly doesn't have the passion for MMA that he had for wrestling, he decided last year to concentrate full-time on it. After a glorious wrestling career in which he won two high school state championships, two NCAA Division I championships at Missouri and represented his country in the Olympics, he knew it wouldn't be easy to walk into another sport and have the same success.

As a competitor, though, he felt compelled to try. He's one of the sport's best wrestlers, clearly, but he's become a brown belt already in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and his striking is coming on.

"I've wrestled my whole life and I worked a long time and very hard to get those [NCAA titles]," Askren said. "Obviously, that was the pinnacle of a lifetime of work. In MMA, I'm trying to do the same thing. I want to push myself every day and see how far I can take this."

He faces a tough challenge in Lima, a Brazilian who trained with UFC veteran Brian Stann in Atlanta. Lima is a hard hitter who knocked out Ben Saunders in November in the welterweight tournament final to earn the shot at Askren.

Askren knows he has to respect Lima's punching power, but Roufus pointed out that his fighter is a lot more versatile.

"I can go in my gym and find a guy who can do what Douglas Lima can do and we can give Ben work and get him ready," Roufus said. "But where is Lima going to find a guy like Ben, with his level of wrestling and his level of jiu-jitsu and who punches as hard as Ben does? That's a lot harder to find."

strong>Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Shootout between Tiger and Rory McIlroy has yet to materialize at Masters
Stan Van Gundy exposes Dwight Howard's power play for a new Magic coach
NFL culture change was coming even before Gregg Williams' infamous speech
Will Arkansas fans forgive Bobby Petrino or run him out of town?

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

How Henry Cejudo went from sleeping on floors to UFC contention (Yahoo Sports)

  • 8 days ago

From Yahoo Sports: The Olympic gold medalist and UFC flyweight contender has the right perspective after a harsh upbringing. read news >>

How Henry Cejudo went from sleeping on floors to UFC contention (Yahoo Sports)

  • 8 days ago

From Yahoo Sports: The Olympic gold medalist and UFC flyweight contender has the right perspective after a harsh upbringing. read news >>

Bellator 145's Will Brooks doesn’t feel 'much of a threat by anybody' in Bellator

  • 26 days ago

Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks is comfortable with his position in the sport and he doesn’t foresee it changing anytime soon. Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Featherweight champ Patricio 'Pitbull': Bellator needs more fighters to challenge for my belt

  • 27 days ago

Patricio Freire wants Bellator to sign some fresh blood to the featherweight division that can present an immediate threat to his title reign.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Video: Part 1 of 'Road To Bellator 145: With A Vengeance,' featuring 'Pitbull,' Straus

  • 27 days ago

Did you miss the debut of Part 1 of “Road To Bellator 145: With A Vengeance,” or just want to watch it again? Check out the full first episode. Filed under: Bellator, News, Videos read news >>

Former Bellator Champ Michael Chandler Will Do Whatever it Takes to Get Belt Back

  • 27 days ago

Former Bellator champ Michael Chandler has finally turned things around, and he doesn't plan on stopping before he gets the belt back. read news >>

Marcin Held scoffs at Will Brooks' 'one-dimensional' label ahead of Bellator title fight

  • 27 days ago

Marcin Held has no interest in engaging in a war of words with Will Brooks ahead of their Bellator lightweight championship showdown at Bellator 145 on Nov. 6. Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Bellator 146 gets Houston Alexander vs. Guilherme Viana and five more prelims

  • 27 days ago

The lineup for Bellator 146 is complete with the addition of one main card bout and five preliminary contests.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Bellator 145's Justin Lawrence: It 'took a couple days' to get over Pat Curran injury

  • 28 days ago

Justin Lawrence admits he was devastated when he lost out on the biggest fight of his career at Bellator 145. Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>

Kimbo Slice headlines Feb. 19 Bellator event, Lashley or Thompson potential opponent

  • 28 days ago

Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson is expected to return to the cage Feb. 19 in a Bellator headliner in Houston against an opponent to be determined.Filed under: Bellator, News read news >>