Just In UFC 239 breakdown: Can Jorge Masvidal hand Ben Askren his first loss? MMA Life

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MMA Junkie Radio co-host and MMA Junkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at a featured fight on the main card of UFC 239.

UFC 239 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.

Jorge Masvidal (33-13 MMA, 10-6 UFC)

Staple info:

  •         Height: 5’11” Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″
  •         Last fight: KO win over Darren Till (March 16, 2019)
  • Camp: American Top Teap (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ AFC welterweight title
+ Undefeated in the streets
+ 14 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Slick boxing technique
^ Accurate shot selection
+ Improved kicking game
+ Solid balance and footwork
+ Active transition and clinch game
^ Strikes well off of the breaks
+ Excellent wrestling ability
+ Underrated submission acumen
^ Works well from the front-headlock

Ben Askren (19-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Robbie Lawler (March 2, 2019)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titles
+ 2x NCAA Div. 1 national champ
+ 4x NCAA Div. 1 All-American wrestler
+ 6 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ Relentless pace and pressure
^ Deceptive athleticism and durability
+/- Developing striking game
^ Primarily uses it to make entries
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Superb from body lock position
+ Chains together takedowns well
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Rides and scrambles seamlessly

Point of interest: Avoiding the three-piece combo

UFC 239 may offer two title fights at the top, but many, like myself, are most looking forward to the styles clash between Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren.

Askren, who made his name in the wrestling world by becoming one of two men to earn the Dan Hodge Trophy twice (amidst many other accolades), is used to having an on-paper disadvantage when striking on the feet. And though the former Mizzou Tiger makes no qualms about using his striking as more of a means to an end, fighters who can offer up something in the counter-wrestling department have seemingly been his tougher tests.

Thankfully for Askren, his confidence seems to translate just fine when having to stalk forward and throw strikes, showing an occasional glimpse of flash when feeling in stride. Askren also appears to have been gifted with a granite chin, something that has kept him in more than a couple contests throughout his career.

Proven toughness aside, Askren cannot afford to make the same mistakes as many by being too confident or solely rely on his durability when facing Masvidal.

The Cuban’s style and available output may have had him arguably too comfortable at times when competing at lightweight, costing him crucial rounds in close fights (fights that many thought he had won). That said, we have seen a different iteration of Masvidal since his ascension up the welterweight division.

Now, pursuing much more aggressively, Masvidal will mix in his improved kicks off of Thai-style marches. Working well off of his patented left hand, the 16-year vet controls the center line with authority, varying between straight shots to the head or hooks to the body.

Seldom extending himself too far out of position, Masvidal can be hard to hit cleanly or counter with a level-changing shot (despite his somewhat tall stance). That said, I will be curious to see if Masvidal avoids the trap of being overly conservative considering the level of wrestler he will be mixing it up with on Saturday night.

Next point of interest: Deterring the funk

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