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MANILA, Philippines – ONE Championship welterweight titleholder Ben Askren retained his title at “Valor of Champions”, but not under the circumstances he would have wanted.
Askren remained unbeaten in his prize-fighting career after his fight with Luis Santos came to an anticlimactic no-contest on Friday, April 24 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Metro Manila.
Askren’s left thumb accidentally poked the right eye of Santos, causing the action to halt at 2:19 of the first round.
It was an unfortunate situation since Santos found success in the bout’s opening minutes, where the 35-year-old Brazilian stuffed an initial takedown attempt from Askren and forced his American foe to disengage with a heavy head kick.
Santos was giving Askren the toughest challenge that the former NCAA Division I wrestler has faced in years, successfully sprawling out of five takedown attempts and even reversing two more.
The organization’s modified rule-set seemed to be an advantage for Santos as he looked to clobber knees to the head and soccer kicks when Askren went on the attack.
Askren was not dissuaded as he waded forward to secure a body lock and then wrestled Santos to score his first successful takedown, but the champion unintentionally gouged Santos’ eye while closing the distance.
Referee Olivier Coste waved it off at first after missing the eye-poke, but when he saw the replay, he reversed his decision and allowed Santos to recover for five minutes.
Santos used his full five minutes to recuperate, but he later informed the referee the he could not see, rendering the championship clash a disappointing no contest.
“This is embarrassing. I knew that the strategy is he comes out early, and he looks for a way out. It’s unfortunate his way out came this way,” Askren (14-0, 1 NC) said in his post-fight interview.
Santos (61-9-1, 1 NC) was rushed to the hospital for further evaluation, but according to one of the paramedics in attendance, there was no serious harm on the right eye.
“There is no cut on the eye, but his eye swells due to the accidental poke. He has no complaints of pain,” responding paramedic Gabriell Dela Cruz stated.
When asked if he is willing to give Santos a rematch, Askren responded, “Let’s do it again in a week, two weeks or whenever.” – Rappler.com