LAS VEGAS (AP) — Ben Askren survived an opening-minute beating and rallied to choke out Robbie Lawler midway through the first round at UFC 235 on Saturday night.
The 34-year-old Askren’s UFC debut almost ended swiftly when Lawler picked him up, dropped him on his head and battered him with punches that left Askren badly bloodied. Askren survived and eventually gained position on Lawler with a bulldog choke.
Lawler, the former welterweight champion, was furious when referee Herb Dean stopped the bout, insisting he was fine in the choke.
The outspoken Askren joined the UFC late last year after a decade fighting in other promotions.
The pay-per-view card also includes welterweight champion Tyron Woodley’s defense against Kamaru Usman and light heavyweight champ Jon Jones against Anthony Smith.