Ben Askren couldn’t come through for the MMA community on Saturday night as the former Bellator champion suffered a first-round TKO loss to Jake Paul in his professional boxing debut. The Youtube star won as the betting favorite via the Fanduel sportsbook, making short work of “Funky”
JAKE PAUL WITH THE FIRST ROUND KNOCKOUT ON BEN ASKREN pic.twitter.com/Jpal6QEjGq
— TmarTn (@TmarTn) April 18, 2021
So who’s next? While the 24-year old’s victory came with a lot of praise, it also puts a target on his back. A number of MMA fighters want their shot at Paul in the boxing ring and here are five potential options.
The most obvious choice is Askren’s close friend and former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Not only is the 39-year-old a free agent after parting ways with the UFC, (meaning there wouldn’t be any red tape accepting a boxing fight) but he already got into it with Paul and his team last week.]
Sneaky one of the funniest storylines from the Jake Paul fight is Tyron Woodley getting into it with Jake Paul’s Team. pic.twitter.com/IDTbq08MRd
— The Rest Round (@TheRestRound) April 18, 2021
Woodley (19-7-1 MMA, 0-0 Boxing) is coming off four-straight losses in the Octagon and hasn’t tasted victory since a September 2018 submission victory over Darren Till. Unlike Askren, Woodley boasts power in his hands and has 7 wins by KO/TKO through 26-career fights. Despite his recent skid, “T-Wood” holds a bit of name-value and it could be the type of fight Paul would accept considering Woodley’s age.
This is my personal favorite choice for Paul’s next opponent. While Diaz is still under UFC contract, the 37-year-old hasn’t competed since a Jan. 2019 “no contest” against Anderson Silva at UFC 183. It’s possible the UFC would release the Stockton native from his contract for a big payday against the Youtube star. Also, Diaz posted a photo last week on social media which shows him in incredible shape.
Be Water. pic.twitter.com/uN9oKCgcmk
— nick diaz (@nickdiaz209) April 14, 2021
Diaz (26-9) hasn’t won a fight since his decision victory over BJ Penn at UFC 137 and has fought just three times since the end of 2011. Not only would Paul be getting one of the biggest names in combat sports as an opponent (for an exceptional payday) but he’d be competing against a relatively inactive fighter which could be an advantage. Diaz also has one boxing fight on his resume, as he defeated Alfonso Rocha by decision back in April 2005.
@triller I’ll fight @jakepaul …respectful call out. I’m in the @ufc but I’m 2-0 as a professional boxer. Pretty much the exact same record as Jake. I’ll sign a contract saying If I don’t win I don’t get paid. pic.twitter.com/j5xfGBm91c
— Philip Rowe (@phillyfreshmma) April 18, 2021
UFC welterweight Phillip Rowe actually made a decent case to box Paul, noting that he has the same amount of experience in the boxing ring. Of course, the 30-year-old doesn’t hold anywhere near the name value of Askren, Diaz or Woodley, however, if Paul wants his next opponent to be based on merit, Rowe fits that to a tee.
Rowe (7-3) came up short in his UFC debut losing a decision to Gabe Green at UFC 258 earlier this year. Prior to that setback, the Fusion Xcel product boasted a seven-fight win streak, with all of those victories coming by stoppage.
Conor McGregor always a name that comes up but obviously, he’s fighting Dustin Poirier in July. Not just that, but I’d have a hard time seeing a commission sanction Paul against a legit knockout artist in the UFC. Also Dillion Danis’ name has come up several times, however, I can’t see Bellator President Scott Coker letting the jiu-jitsu specialist out of his current contract to take a fight.