In the world of MMA, we are often left with the question of “what if?” From “how would the fight between Tony and Khabib had gone if it happened on the first attempt?” to “what if RDA had never injured his foot, leading to Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz?”. These are all questions that can leave us wondering where the UFC or fight game as a whole be if it wasn’t for these sorts of events. This is going to be the first of a series of articles where I look at how different things could be for MMA in an alternate timeline.
As we all know, Ben Askren fell victim to the fastest KO in the history of the UFC when he caught a flying knee from the newly revitalised “Street Jesus” Jorge Masvidal. It is safe to say that neither I nor anyone else could have predicted the fight ending in such a dramatic way and with all the hype that was surrounding Ben at the time, it suddenly killed all ideas of big fights with Usman, GSP and even Khabib. So let’s go back to the start of round 1. The bell rings, and the fighters rush towards each other like before, however, this time Ben avoids the knee and secures the double leg takedown, quickly taking Jorge’s back where after some hand fighting, Ben is able to sink in a rear-naked choke to end the fight. Now what?
Given Ben’s personality and his love of Pro-wrestling style call-outs, it is likely he would have gotten on the Mic to spit Venom at the rest of the division. Given that just 4 months earlier, on the same card as Askren’s Debut, Kamaru Usman would pull off the upset to dethrone welterweight king, and teammate of Askren, Tyron Woodley, it would only make sense that Askren would turn most of his attention towards Usman or “Marty” as Ben insists on calling him. With a pre-existing feud with the two stemming from a backstage altercation that Usman would post online as well as a wealth of back and forth both online and at press conferences, this is a fight that would have sold itself. Now while it is impossible to say who would have won the fight between the two, the general consensus would probably see a Kamaru win, however, half the fun of MMA is that you never know what can happen.
So with a loss to Askren behind him and his comeback slowed, what could have happened with Jorge Masvidal? For me, one match-up sticks out and that would be Leon Edwards. Following his KO victory over Darren Till, Masvidal would unleash his now-infamous “3 piece and a soda” on British welterweight contender, Leon Edwards. The brief brawl would see Edwards leave the Arena with a large cut under his eye as well as his pride taking a bit of a knock. With Jorge needing a big win and Leon not yet booked for a fight, this would be the perfect match-up. The press conferences would have been back and forth, there was a pre-existing beef and it would give both men a huge boost with a win. Once again it is hard to say how this fight would have gone, especially since it may still be on the cards down the line so here’s hoping it’s not too late for this fight to get its resolution.
Finally, With new champion Usman now set to face Ben Askren, where does that leave someone like Colby? Colby would go on to face and defeat Robbie Lawler in August of 2019 and after, a shot at Usman. So with Usman tied up, who would he face? the obvious answer would be the now former champion, Tyron Woodley. Many fans, myself included, were expecting to see Colby vs Woodley long before either men would fight Usman as there was so much bad blood between the two dating back years to their time at ATT (American Top team) where Colby had felt slighted by Woodley’s seeming lack of interest to actually work with Colby as opposed to just teeing off on him in sparring. So with this already being a huge feud, this would be a fight both men would have needed. Tyron with a big win would be straight back into the title picture and Colby with a win would have fully cemented him as the next challenger to the Belt.
One other thing to think about would be, if Askren had never lost to Masvidal, would we have still seen a boxing match between Ben and Jake Paul? While it is likely that Ben would have still poured on the insults to Jake Paul during this time, it is unlikely that with a higher place among the UFC as he would have had that he would have or even been allowed to compete against Jake Paul. So who would he have fought? The chances are it would have been someone like the notorious Dillon Danis, who while younger and more physically healthy as Ben, is very similarly inexperienced in the world of striking. So let’s say that Paul Beat Danis instead of Askren. would that have brought us one step closer to the fight no one wants to see that is Jake Paul vs Conor McGregor?
it’s impossible to say how any of this would have played out and frankly we can never know, but it is fun to look back at how certain results would have led to different match-ups and possibly even different champions.