Ahead of an April 17. professional boxing match between polarizing YouTuber, Jake Paul and former UFC welterweight contender, Ben Askren — renowned Tristar MMA head coach, Firas Zahabi has given his thoughts on the spectacle, and he’s likely siding against the consensus pick.
Headlining a Triller pay-per-view showcase in Atlanta, Georgia at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Paul makes his third professional boxing appearance following a pair of knockout wins over fellow content creator, AnEsonGib, and former NBA dunk contest feature, Nate Robinson — the most recenty of which came via a stunning, highlight-reel KO on the undercard of Triller’s promoted, Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. event last November.
For Askren, the former ONE Championship and Bellator welterweight champion makes his first combat sports appearance since his third and final UFC walk at UFC Fight Night Kallang back in October of 2019 where he dropped a third round rear-naked choke defeat to former middleweight and welterweight title challenger, Demian Maia. In need of hip surgery, Askren called time on his professional mixed martial arts career in the weeks following the main event clash.
Drawing its fair share of critics and criticism ever since its announcement, Paul vs. Askren has become a vocal conversation surrounding the combat sports community over the last couple of months, with the pair involved in a pre-fight press conference last Friday ahead of the April 17. matchup.
Trading their respective barbs during the press event, Paul and Askren were involved in a face-off scuffle afterward, with Askren pushing his hand into Paul’s face, who reacted by slapping Askren in the midsection, before pushing the wrestler in the back. Paul infamously claimed after the fact he had restrained himself from knocking Askren unconscious during the altercation.
Giving his thoughts on the main event slot recently, Zahabi, the renowned head trainer of former two-weight UFC champion, Georges St-Pierre — going against the grain largely, predicting a victory for Askren.
“I think Ben Askren wins,” Zahabi said during a recent podcast appearance. “Here’s why, I saw Jake Paul’s last fight, he’d knocked out some guy with a couple overhand rights, stunned him a few times, dropped him. But here’s where Jake Paul — I don’t think he knows what he’s getting into. Number one, Ben Askren is a wrestler, yes and his forte is not striking, we all know that — he’s not the greatest striker. But he’s been in there with killers, he’s been in there with like legitimately dangerous human beings. One of them being Robbie Lawler, Douglas Lima — I can go on and on the list is super long.“
“He’s been in there with real killers, and I know he didn’t use boxing, but he took shots from these guys,” Zahabi explained. “Not everyone got to land a shot on him, but if you remember the fight with Robbie Lawler, Robbie Lawler had him on the floor, he had Ben Askren on the floor and he laid into him, some serious amount of damage. Four, five, six, seven shots maybe, I can’t remember. But it was some serious shots.“
“Let’s call it fifteen years he’s been striking, let’s call it ten years, let’s be reserved here,” Zahabi said. “It’s not only boxing offence that’s the issue — I guarantee you that he takes a shot better than Jake, I can guarantee you that, I’m guaranteeing you that right now.“
“So Jake’s gonna go in there, and in the first two, three rounds he’s gonna be dancing around and he’s gonna jab Askren he’s gonna look alright, he’s gonna look good, Askren’s gonna hit him and back it’s gonna be a give and take. But here’s what Jake doesn’t know, Askren has proven that he’s got an incredible chin.“
According to Zahabi, however, if Paul lands a massive shot to stop Askren — well then credit will have to be given to Jorge Masvidal who stopped Askren with a five-second flying knee back in July of 2019.
“How is he (Paul) gonna pick and poke, stick and move and stay away from Askren — once they lock up, once they lock up, I guarantee you, Jake’s battery is going to drain.“
“That’s what I’ve got guys, I think Ben’s going to win, unless he gets hit with a freak shot and gets knocked out ’cause his chin is bad — I would still say that’s on (Jorge) Masvidal, Masvidal won that fight for Jake Paul, I doubt it though. I think his chin is gonna be fine and he’s gonna maul him.“