Askren not tak­ing Kadestam lightly

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ALTHOUGH he is uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized as one of the best cage com­peti­tors in the sport’s pound-for­pound rank­ings and one of the most dom­i­nant ti­tle­hold­ers in ONE Cham­pi­onship history, Ben “Funky” Askren is not tak­ing his next chal­lenger for granted.

Askren will put his ONE Wel­ter­weight World Cham­pi­onship on the line against Ze­baz­tian “The Ban­dit” Kadestam of Swe­den in the main event of ONE, which takes place at the 15,000-ca­pac­ity Shang­hai Ori­en­tal Sports Cen­ter in Shang­hai, China on Septem­ber 2.

A late with­drawal opened up an op­por­tu­nity for Kadestam to jump to the up­per ech­e­lon of ONE Cham­pi­onship’s wel­ter­weight di­vi­sion.

Af­ter Vuy­isile Colossa was forced to with­draw from his bout, Kadestam agreed to re­place him on two weeks no­tice and test his met­tle with former ti­tle chal­lenger Luis “Sapo” Santos on the un­der­card of ONE: Dy­nasty of He­roes last May.

Kadestam made head­lines when he de­feated Santos as the lit­tle-known Swede had been com­pletely dom­i­nated in the open­ing two rounds of the con­test be­fore pulling off a mirac­u­lous knock­out in the fi­nal stanza.

“The Ban­dit” turned the tide mid­way of the third round by sprawl­ing a slug­gish take­down at­tempt from the Brazil­ian, then re­versed po­si­tion, and ham­mered his op­po­nent with strikes from side con­trol.

A pair of hard knees put the fin­ish­ing touches as the ref­eree stepped in to call a halt to the match at 2:18 of the third and fi­nal frame.

Kadestam’s as­tound­ing vic­tory over Santos swiftly earned him a world ti­tle op­por­tu­nity as he is set to lock horns with the tough­est op­po­nent of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer in Askren.

Ac­cord­ing to Askren, Kadestam’s shock­ing con­quest of Santos caught his at­ten­tion as he watched the bout in his dress­ing room while warm­ing up for his match against Agi­lan “The Al­li­ga­tor” Thani, whom he de­feated by way of first-round sub­mis­sion on the same card.

“He is tough and he is durable, and that showed in the match with Santos. He took some hard shots, but stayed in there and kept com­pet­ing. Then, he was able to land the re­ally big knee in the third round, which ended up fin­ish­ing the match,” he said of Kadestam’s win over Santos.

Un­like the Olympian’s pre­vi­ous op­po­nents, Kadestam is armed with a dan­ger­ous strik­ing game as he pos­sesses a top­shelf Muay Thai skillset with knock­out power.

Even though he is con­sid­ered as one the best wel­ter­weights in the world, Askren re­fused to un­der­mine the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Kadestam.

“I can­not get lack­adaisi­cal on him, and I can­not stop putting the pres­sure on be­cause ob­vi­ously, he is re­ally tough. He is big, he is strong, and he hits hard with both hands and knees. He is tough, he is durable, and he is go­ing to stay in the match. He is not go­ing to do some­thing stupid and give it up easy and early. He is go­ing to stick around un­til I put him out,” he stated.

Askren is plan­ning to de­ploy his trade­mark strat­egy of re­lent­less world-class wrestling to take his Swedish foe down to the mat.

Once on the ground, Askren ex­pects to ad­vance to­wards a more dom­i­nant po­si­tion in hopes of se­cur­ing a matchend­ing sub­mis­sion or con­tin­u­ously drop­ping ground strikes un­til the ref­eree stops the bout.

"It does not mat­ter what my op­po­nent's strengths and weak­nesses are be­cause at the end of the day, I have got the trump card. He can­not stop my wrestling, then he is go­ing to be on his back, and he is go­ing to get beaten up,” he ex­plained.

“I will come across the cage, I will grab you, I will put you on your back, and I will punch you un­til you ask the ref­eree to stop me from do­ing so. The other op­tion is that I am go­ing to make you tap,” Askren added.

For the past eight years, dat­ing back to his pro­fes­sional de­but in Fe­bru­ary 2009, his un­stop­pable strat­egy has worked bril­liantly for Askren, who does not see any rea­son to stray from his strength.

“I am re­ally ef­fec­tive at what I do. I never made a se­cret of it, and I al­ways played to my strengths, and that is some­thing a lot of peo­ple get away from. They do not play to their strengths, and I al­ways play to my strengths, and I have been very fo­cused and de­ter­mined on what I do. So far, it has worked out well,” he shared. PR

One Cham­pi­onship photo

DE­FEND THE CROWN. Ben Askren de­fends his One Cham­pi­onship wel­ter­weight world ti­tle against Ze­bas­tian Kadestam on Septem­ber 2.

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