With Ben Askren back in action for the first time since April 24th, 2015, ONE Championship (I didn’t even know they changed their name) becomes relevant to the general MMA community for another day. While it’s getting more difficult to truly consider Askren one of the best welterweights in the world due to his level of competition, he’s still an intriguing watch, especially given his streak of scoring increasingly dominant finishes in his last four fights. At ONE 41, Askren will be taking on Nikolay Aleksakhin, a 17-3 Russian who has competed in M-1 Global and Fight Nights cards back in his native country. Aleksakhin brings a six-fight win streak into his bout with Askren, including a win in his ONE debut back in November. Askren is obviously the biggest test of the 25-year-old’s career, and it will be apparent very early on in the bout if he is in over his head. The rest of ONE Championship 41 takes place at 155 or lower, and presents some intriguing matchups with several of their brighter prospects. At flyweight, former title challenger Geje Eustaquio takes on one-loss Gianni Subba. Undefeated Hawaiian Lowen Tynanes faces another former title challenger at lightweight, Koji Ando. Perhaps ONE’s best chance to produce a top fighter, 20-year-old Muin Gafurov puts his 10-0 record (all by stoppage) on the line against Reece McLaren, holder of multiple titles in his home country of Australia. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the top five fights at ONE Championship 41 today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Internet PPV, 7am ET) Ben Askren -675 Nikolay Aleksakhin +425 Gianni Subba -175 Geje Eustaquio +135 Lowen Tynanes -140 Koji Ando +100 Muin Gafurov -350 Reece McLaren +250 Honorio Banario -185 Vaughan Donayre +145 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Earlier I wrote that it won’t take long to find out if Aleksakhin is in over his head. I lied. He is. Askren is going to take him down and punish him immediately. The only question is how long Aleksakhin can survive, and I don’t expect it to be that long. I don’t usually parlay big lines, but I’m definitely tempted to throw Askren in a parlay. Gianni Subba is still improving, while I think Geje Eustaquio has plateaued as a fighter. I think Subba’s length will give Eustaqiuo problems on the feet, and should be the better fighter in scrambles. Lowen Tynanes’ aggressiveness is either going to get him clipped early by Koji Ando, or he’ll simply overwhelm Ando on the inside with his grappling game. There is also the possibility that Tynanes is able to hurt Ando on the way in, because he does carry some decent power in his hands. I lean more towards Tynanes keeping his undefeated record in tact and moving towards a title shot. Muin Gafurov has been dominating everyone he’s faced. Even his step up in competition to Toni Tauru in his last bout went smoothly. Reese McLaren isn’t a bad fighter, but he’s not even the best fighter Gafurov has faced in 2016, and I see the Tajikistani continuing his impressive run. Honorio Banario’s record and five-fight losing streak don’t look good, but he’s faced a much higher level of competition than Vaughan Donayre. This is the time for Banario to get back in the win column, and I see no reason he won’t be able to. I expect this to be a striking battle, and I think Banario is the better striker so this should be fairly clear cut.
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