Five Questions: Blachowicz-Jacare, Rua’s Future, Ben Askren retires

This week's edition of 'Five Questions' looks at Jan Blachowicz's win over 'Jacare', the future of Shogun Rua, Ben Askren's retirement & more.

In this week’s edition of ‘Five Questions’, Phil Chertok looks back at last weekend’s fight between Jan Blachowicz and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza. The fight has been panned as one of the dullest affairs of 2019 with Blachowicz squeaking a victory out but failing to mount any sort of campaign for a light heavyweight title fight.

In the same weight class, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and Paul Craig left with a split draw and continues the discussion of what Rua does next? The former light heavyweight champion has only sustained one loss since 2015 but at 37, has fought in countless wars over the course of his 18-year fighting career.

Plus, a look at the career of Ben Askren, who retired this past week and leaves behind an interesting legacy where his best work was seen prior to joining the UFC over the past year. At 35, Askren will need surgery on his left hip and has said he will be unable to fight after that procedure. For years, Askren was viewed as the top welterweight outside the UFC, winning championships in Bellator and ONE Championship. The NCAA champion, two-time Hodge Trophy winner, and 2008 Olympian finally debuted for the UFC this past March with a controversial win over Robbie Lawler followed by losses to Jorge Masvidal and Demian Maia.

POST WRESTLING: Were there any strong takeaways you left with after viewing the UFC Fight Night card from Sao Paulo, Brazil and was Jan Blachowicz vs. Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza the worst UFC main event of 2019?

PHIL CHERTOK: My main takeaways from the event are that Charles Oliveira needs a top opponent and Jan Blachowicz needs a lesson in effective post-fight interviews. Oliveira, the UFC’s all-time submission leader has won six in a row, all of them finishes. He’s constantly in thrilling fights and I’d love to see him featured on a big card against a ranked opponent. Blachowicz, on the other hand, is already getting main event slots (this is his second this year) but he’s got to learn how to use them. After a lackluster win on Saturday night in which he edged out ‘Jacare’, he made one of the worst title shot requests, I can recall. To summarize for those who missed it, his argument was as follows “Hey, I’m going to be retiring soon, so why don’t you give me a title shot before that? Cool?” You need to have some fire in your breath if you want people to get behind your title shot. It doesn’t mean you need to trash talk your opponent but people need to feel that you care about what you are doing, they want to know that you desire the championship more than anything and you’ll go through anyone to get it. Now, was this the worst main event of 2019? It didn’t leave me with as bad a feeling as Jeremy Stephens vs Yair Rodriguez’s no contest from Mexico City, but at least that fight didn’t cost me 25 minutes I’ll never get back.

How do you continue to utilize Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua? There have been arguments he has taken too much damage throughout his career and yet, he has only been defeated once since November 2014. Did you feel he won the fight against Paul Craig?

CHERTOK: I don’t feel that ‘Shogun’ won on Saturday. It was more like Paul Craig found a way to not win. Shogun was punished with vicious strikes, but Craig seemed to have several mental lapses that allowed Shogun to get back into the fight, mostly with some effective top control.  Now, it’s true that Rua has only lost one fight in five years but those wins have generally been against less than stellar competition and it’s pretty inconceivable that he’ll beat another ranked opponent, but stranger things have happened. Quite frankly, it’s almost a miracle he’s here, to begin with considering the cornucopia of injuries he’s battled throughout his career. I’m OK with him continuing to fight but I would prefer it to be against the proper level of competition, considering how the UFC typically books its fights I see them continuing to square him off against rising prospects.

How do you feel Ben Askren’s legacy will be viewed with the benefit of hindsight following the news of his retirement this past week? Does his absence from the UFC until this past year hurt his legacy at all?

CHERTOK: I’m not sure that his legacy is hurt all that much. He came to the UFC late in his career and fought the best competition in the division and came up short. His time in the UFC was incredibly thrilling despite his reputation for being a boring fighter beforehand. He created a lot of excitement and attention to his fights and often overshadowed other fighters, higher on the card.  Would it have been better for him to have competed during his prime? Of course but that’s not the story we got and I don’t think it should tarnish the excellent career that ‘Funky’ achieved.

Which fight do you wish you could have seen involving Askren during his prime when he wasn’t with the UFC?

CHERTOK: Fortunately for me, I got my dream fight when Maia and Askren fought in Singapore last month. When it was announced that Askren was coming to the UFC that was the fight I wanted more than any other and am extremely thankful that it finally came to fruition. The only other fight that comes to mind would have to be the mythical matchup vs leading GOAT candidate Georges St-Pierre. St-Pierre was known for his phenomenal wrestling and was almost always able to out grapple fighters with greater wrestling credentials, so it’s only natural to wonder how he would have done against Askren, a two-time Hodge Trophy winner and one of the most decorated collegiate wrestlers ever.

If Anthony Johnson does return to fight in 2020, how do you view his chances at success competing at heavyweight?

CHERTOK: I like his chances to get a couple of wins against the right competition but I don’t give him much chance facing the top of the division. Anthony Johnson’s career problem was never a lack of skill, it was a lack of heart. Time and time again we saw him make horrible mistakes or outright quit when things were not going his way in a fight. Unless he’s corrected those problems, I don’t see how he could possibly fare well against the division’s elite. Regardless, heavyweight is always looking for new competition and the path to the title is extremely short so if ‘Rumble’ can return in 2020 and secure a couple of trademark KOs, I could see him fighting for gold sooner rather than later.

Phil Chertok is the co-host of our monthly UFC POST Shows and returns on Saturday, December 14th following UFC 245.