When Ben Askren challenged Jordan Burroughs to an exhibition match at Beat the Streets, it was a victory for the sport of wrestling. A two-time Hodge Trophy winner, 2008 Olympian, Bellator MMA and ONE Championship titleholder, Askren has become one of the most recognizable names in the combat sports world.
While Jordan Burroughs is working on his sixth gold medal at the World or Olympic level, his fame is largely within the wrestling bubble. Perhaps he truly felt he could add to his own legend by giving Burroughs a tough match, but ultimately the callout was a generous act by “Funky” Ben Askren. He lent his own fame and momentum to the sport, and chose the perfect event.
Beat the Streets (BTS) is a nonprofit organization founded by wealthy former Princeton wrestler Mike Novogratz. Their mission is to change the lives of at-risk youth by getting them involved in the sport of wrestling. Each year, BTS puts on a charity exhibition in New York City to give back to the fans and raise awareness for their cause.
Before we take a closer look at how Jordan Burroughs completely dismantled Askren, we owe him our gratitude for placing the sport above himself. Losing in this fashion likely did not help his reputation, but it did bring new eyes to the sport and certainly led to greater appreciation for one of the greatest American wrestlers of all time, Jordan Burroughs.
The odds were not in Askren’s favor
Ben Askren hasn’t wrestled a competitive match since 2015. In his FloWrestling Pro League bout with NCAA finalist and former national team member Clayton Foster, Askren was essentially manhandled, losing 10-3.
Even at his peak in freestyle in 2008, Askren was not particularly successful against the elite on the world level.
Jordan Burroughs, on the other hand, won his first World title out of college in 2011. Through his run of titles, Burroughs has had to defend his spot against some of the greatest American wrestlers to ever live like David Taylor and Kyle Dake. Nearly a decade later, “JB” is still on top.
In the 2018 World Wrestling Championships, Burroughs suffered his only loss of the tournament to Zaurbek Sidakov on a last second takedown. He wrestled his way back to bronze, taking out World champion and international superstar Frank Chamizo.
Askren hasn’t been training to win wrestling matches for a long time, there wasn’t really ever a doubt who would win.
The question was, what can Askren offer? Will he be able to funk his way out of any dicey situations, can he score a single point?
Jordan Burroughs vs. Ben Askren Match Highlights
Video footage courtesy of FloWrestling
Jordan Burroughs is one of the most prolific double leg takedown artists in the history of wrestling. Since he emerged on the world stage, Burroughs has diversified his game, but much of his offense comes off the threat of the double and the setups that lead to it.
Burroughs quickly lured Askren into his world, faking level changes to convince him to plant his feet. As Askren reached out to post and keep a safe distance, Burroughs tied up his wrists and slid to his right on a single, collecting the ankle.
James Green, a victor earlier in the night and a longtime Burroughs teammate, repeatedly ran his opponent off the mat in his bout. Last year we had the slippery mat, this year we had the mat that dropped directly into the crowd. After all the trash talk before the match, it wasn’t a surprise that Burroughs took every opportunity to get rough with Askren.
He got his one point for the pushout, but he also made a statement. This would not be a playful match.
After that shot, Askren basically accepted that Burroughs was going to get to his legs. His opportunities would have to come from scrambles, so Askren lowered his stance and kept his arms low to catch whatever was coming.
Burroughs shot right through his hands and blew him off his feet.
Up 5-0, Burroughs was halfway to a technical fall.
Continuning to level change and work the outside, Burroughs easily got Askren chasing him up and down in his stance. Once Askren was tall and reaching, Burroughs had a clean entry on his double leg.
The entry was so deep, Burroughs felt confident he could put a little extra on the finish, lifting Askren off his feet.
Two factors were at play, the first being that Askren was threatening a chest wrap, and it’s possible he could have exposed Burroughs for two points on their way back down. The other is that while Askren fights at 170, he has well over a day to rehydrate, and only cuts that weight two to three times per year. More than likely, Askren is walking around 190. Burroughs, on the other hand, is making 163 dozens of times a year with a short turnaround to competition. In short, Askren was heavy.
With Askren in the air, Burroughs turned the corner and finished the double on their way back down, holding a potential leg lace position.
Typically, the mat is Askren’s world. But in freestyle, diving for a leg when you’re on bottom gives your opponent the opportunity to drive you back and expose.
After two physical turns for Burroughs, the ref blew the action dead.
With one point left until the tech, Burroughs took a breather for the rest of the period. While he likely could have pushed to finish in the first period, I personally believe Burroughs took the time to ensure Askren wouldn’t find any success off a rushed attack. The tech was imminent, but Burroughs was intent on a complete shutout.
After a 30-second break, it was back to level changing.
Askren posted on the head, Burroughs caught the wrist and dragged for a slick low single entry. The five-time World and Olympic champion quickly switched off to a double and ended the match.
Most wrestling fans learned absolutely nothing from this exhibition. Of course 34-year-old MMA fighter Ben Askren couldn’t score on Jordan Burroughs in a freestyle match. But, as previously stated, it was all about exposure for the sport.
The rest of the card was absolutely incredible, highlighted by Cornell NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis taking out World #1 Bajrang Punia in a dramatic, hectic match. Stay tuned for similar coverage on that match this week!
New York is Yianni's city!
Yianni knocks off world #1 Bajrang, 10-8! pic.twitter.com/f1jvNx7rB7
— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) May 7, 2019