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F.I.S.T.
04-27-2015, 12:58 AM
ONE Championship 26 results:Ben Askren vs. Luis Santos ruled no contest after bizarre scene in Manila
By Shaun Al-Shatti


Ben Askren may have retained his ONE welterweight title, but not in a way he would've liked. Askren's main event fight against Luis Santos at ONE Championship 26 ended in bizarre fashion on Friday night in Manila, Philippines, being ruled a no contest due to an accidental Askren eyepoke after a lengthy and largely frustrating deliberation period midway through the first round.

The ending was particularly unfortunate because up until that point, Santos (61-9-1, 1 NC) was giving Askren (14-0, 1 NC) the toughest challenge the American has faced in years, successfully sprawling out of five takedown attempts and even reversing two more. ONE Championship's modified ruleset seemed to be an advantage for the Brazilian, as Santos looked to headhunt with knees to the head and soccer kicks off of each one of Askren's failed takedowns. Santos also stumbled Askren with a hard leg kick midway through the opening frame.

But the tide may have been turning in the closing moments. With three minutes left in the round, Askren waded forward on Santos, secured a body lock, then wrestled Santos to the floor to hit his first successful takedown. Askren's ground control is virtually unmatched, but he couldn't put it to use, as replay showed that he caught Santos with a grisly thumb to the Brazilian's right eye on his entry.

Referee Olivier Coste first called off the fight having missed the eyepoke, then saw it on replay and reversed his decision, allowing Santos five minutes to recover.

Santos used his full five minutes, and even a few extra minutes as cageside officials scrambled to bridge the language barrier and figure out a solution. But ultimately Santos was unable to continue, rending the bout a disappointing no contest at 2:19 of the first round.

"This is embarrassing," said an angry Askren. "I knew that the strategy and what I heard from people was he comes out strong early then he's going to look for a way out. And it's unfortunate that his way out came this way. He's lived in America for five years. I know he understands ‘get up,' I know he understands ‘yes' or ‘no.' I don't even know what to say. Let's fight again as soon as possible, maybe next week, maybe two weeks. You looked for a way out. I'm going to give you a better way out next time."

In the night's co-main event, hometown favorite and top Filipino prospect Mark Striegl (14-1) made his ONE FC debut a successful one, submitting previously unbeaten American bantamweight Casey Suire (5-1) with a first-round rear-naked choke. Striegl threw Suire to the ground early then slowly went to work, advancing positions until securing both hooks and sliding an arm underneath's Suire's neck. Suire fought off the choke valiantly, but ultimately he was forced to tap at 3:48 of the opening frame.

"I love you Manila, thank you for coming. There's no other city that I'd rather fight in, thank you so much for coming out," Striegl said. "There's pressure going into any fight in any kind of competition, but if anything it motivated me and inspired me to performance my best tonight, so thank you guys."

Elsewhere on the card, Thai flyweight Anatpong Bunrad (5-1) notched the upset of the night, eking out a split decision over onetime title challenger Geje Eustaquio (6-4). The fight was a back-and-forth affair, with Bunrad landing takedowns in rounds one and three, and scoring hard flurries off the counter whenever Eustaquio let his hands go. Eustaquio repeatedly found his mark with his right hand, but it was Bunrad's aggression, more than anything else, that likely tipped the fight in his favor, as ONE Championship judges score the fight as a whole, a la Pride, rather than round-by-round scoring.

Filipino flyweight Eugene Toquero (7-1) certainly left his mark on the card too, sauntering out to Katy Perry then blasting through Indonesia's Brianata Rosadhi (1-2) in less than four minutes under a hailstorm of elbows. Toquero reversed a lazy takedown attempt to land in full mount just seconds into the fight, and from there it was clinical. Toquero scrambled to north/south position, punished Rosadhi with a few knees to the head, then sent Rosadhi home with a violent flurry of elbows from half guard.

"The fans have made it here going through such much traffic, so I wanted to make sure I gave them the very best of action," Toquero said through a translator. "Once Eugene steps into this cage, action is what you're going to see."

In a battle of Filipino featherweights, Edward Kelly (6-2) toppled Jimmy Yabo (4-1, 1 NC) from the ranks of the unbeaten, scoring a slick rear-naked choke in the closing minute of the first round. Kelly tripped Yabo along the fence, then immediately snatched one hook onto Yabo's back and sunk in the fight-ending submission, snapping a two-fight losing streak inside the ONE Championship cage.

Rounding out the rest of the card, Singapore's Amir Khan (3-1) improved his ONE Championship record to a perfect 3-0, ending the night of Pakistani featherweight Bashir Amhad (3-2) with a third-round doctor's stoppage due to a nasty facial cut. Chinese flyweight Lui Xiao Yang (2-2) scored one of the most memorable finishes of the evening, flooring Singapore's Nicholas Lee (3-3) with a massive looping right early into the first round. His countryman, Chinese featherweight Wang Ya Wei, had similar success, defeating Singapore's Sunoto (2-1) via third-round TKO in the opening fight of the night.