WOOLSEY: What the Funk? Why you should care about Ben Askren

By Payton Woolsey, MMATorch Contributor

Ben Askren
Mar 2, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ben Askren (blue gloves) defeats Robbie Lawler (red gloves) during UFC 235 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since UFC 235, it seems most fans are talking about Ben Askren. One of the most asked questions I seem to see is, “what’s the big deal with Ben?” Well, that’s what we are going to jump into today just to explain why Ben, especially in the wrestling world, is held at such high regard.

Not all wrestlers were created equal, actually, I’ve never seen two that wrestle the same. But, we all had some basic rules in the world of folkstyle wrestling. Don’t reach back, wrestle from superior position, and when in a scramble, keep your head up and you’ll come out on top.  Askren literally did none of these things and he DOMINATED. There is not really a proper way to illustrate with words just how dominant he was. Recent pinning phenoms such as Bo Nickel and Jason Nolf Battled it out for this year’s Hodge trophy (most dominant wrestler of the year) with Nickel taking it. Bo ended his career with 50+ pins (Nolf too) which is incredible and seldom heard of. Ben Askren had 91. He pinned 91 other Division 1 wrestlers. That’s about the best way to explain his greatness to an outsider. But what exactly allowed him to do that?

Enter ‘The Funk’. Yeah so Benny Boy was damn good but, it wasn’t just what he was doing but how. It appeared that Askren’s technique was to just go out there and turn things into a brawl but somehow every time he won. Then it became pretty apparent that Askren had made his own type of wrestling up and it’s been referred to as the funk ever since. During his time it was called unorthodox wrestling. Today it’s commonplace to see high-level funk wrestling at youth clubs. It’s obviously never a brawl either. We clearly know who’s in control in that would look like a toss up to an outsider. He wrote and created the code for the style that would break folkstyle at the seams.

“But Payton, there are other Olympians and NCAA champs in the UFC already.” Yes, that is true. But in the Olympics, they don’t wrestle folk style (folk was entirely American made) and folkstyle is more about control of the opponent where freestyle focuses on takedowns and fast back exposure. Guess which style converts to cage fighting better? That’s right, folk style. It just so happens that Askren’s the best control based wrestler to hit the octagon. Ever. This is why he can wrestle a person in a fight and win. It’s kinda hard to roundhouse kick when you are in a cradle. Sure, GSP rolled around a little. He’s never been on Askren’s wrestling level. He begged the question with standard orthodox wrestling and found a better answer. He didn’t just wrestle, he changed how everybody else does it.


Askren has an upcoming freestyle wrestling match at ‘beat the streets’ with Jordan Burroughs, An Olympic gold and world gold medalist in freestyle. You won’t wanna miss it.

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