• Ben Askren and Luis Santos will go at it again at ONE: Pride of Lions

Ben Askren and Luis Santos will go at it again at ONE: Pride of Lions (Photo : ONE Championship)

The first fight didn't exactly go as he planned, but unbeaten welterweight kingpin Ben "Funky" Askren, ONE Championship's welterweight world champion, hopes to put the past behind him when he meets the hulkish Luis "Sapo" Santos of Brazil for the second time this November in Singapore.

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When they first stared each other down from across the ONE cage last April in Manila, Askren looked at Santos as just another challenger, just another guy in the way.

In large part, that much hasn't changed.

"My opinion of Luis Santos hasn't changed at all," said Askren, a former US Olympian.

"I'm excited to get back in the cage and prove that my initial expectations were correct. He's just another guy I have to beat, and I beat whoever is in front of me. That's my job."

As the story unfolds however, Santos was much more than that, and came prepared to meet Askren's challenge head on.

Santos utilized his size and strength advantage to give the American wrestling stalwart fits, stuffing takedowns and getting the better of striking exchanges. The action was furious and fast paced, favoring the Brazilian.

Suddenly, Askren was in for a real fight -- perhaps the realest he had ever partaken. Here stood a man before him who was stronger, faster, and more explosive than he was.

Santos, who has a whopping 70 professional mixed martial arts bouts on his record, was doing what no other soul had done before against Askren.

Askren is universally recognized as one of the best fighters in the world regardless of weight class, so for Santos to go into that cage and literally manhandle Askren the way he did took a lot of people by surprise.

Ben Askren and Luis Santos will settle the score once and for all
(Photo : ONE Championship) Ben Askren and Luis Santos will settle the score once and for all

Askren however, being the champion that he is, was simply not going to fold. The American drove continuously for the single leg, battling against Santos' center of gravity whilst absorbing a few heavy shots in the process.

As powerful as Santos must have felt at the time, he must have been saying to himself, 'there's just no quit in this man.'

For those who have followed Askren closely throughout his career, this was exactly how he got things done -- by fighting through adversity and imposing his will onto his opponent. Askren was the champion after all, and carried the pride of being undefeated with him into the cage.

"I was extremely annoyed because I knew he was playing up the injury more than he needed to," said Askren, referring to the controversial eye poke which ended the first encounter prematurely.

"[Santos] was looking for an easy way out because he knew I was beginning to come on. And he found it."

Make no mistake about it, what makes this rematch of sorts so compelling is all tied into how the first fight ended.

Will this be a continuation of the first round of the first fight? Will Santos enjoy the same success he had now that the element of surprise is gone? Will Askren come into the cage with a better game-plan?

These are questions which can only be answered within the confines of the unforgiving ONE cage. Will Askren succumb to the mighty force that is Luis Santos?

Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

Ben Askren and Luis Santos meet head to head inside the cage once more on 13 November, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore, in the main event of ONE: PRIDE OF LIONS. The bout will be for Askren's ONE Welterweight World Championship.