Unbeaten welterweight Ben Askren will make his UFC debut, fighting former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 233 on Jan. 26 at Honda Center.
Askren (18-0) stood as the One Championship welterweight champion when the UFC orchestrated an unprecedented trade, moving its former long-reigning flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to the Japan circuit following his August loss to Henry Cejudo.
Cejudo will defend his belt against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, of Yorba Linda, in what’s expected to stand as the main event of UFC 233.
Askren, a former college wrestler who won gold medals at the 2008 U.S. championships and 2009 world championships, is a sensation who captivated widespread interest among the most ardent mixed martial arts fans.
Lawler (28-12), who defeated fellow veteran Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone during a 2017 event at Honda Center, is regarded as one of the most rugged fighters in UFC history, and he stood as champion until a 2016 knockout loss to current champion Tyron Woodley.
Woodley is a close friend and training partner of Askren, who said he won’t fight Woodley. Askren has pressed the UFC to consider the creation of a new 165-pound division to help resolve that conflict; his debut fight will be at 170 pounds.
The UFC also announced that lightweight Alexander Hernandez will replace Islam Makhachev as the opponent for Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 233. Machachev is taking time off to deal with a personal family matter, according to a UFC spokesman.