Ben Askren and Tyron Woodley will walk into the Octagon on Saturday at UFC 235 just mere minutes apart. Askren, making his UFC debut, takes on former champion Robbie Lawler. Woodley, in the bout that follows, aims to defend his welterweight title for the fifth consecutive time against Kamaru Usman.
It will be a first for the UFC, but Askren and Woodley, competing on the same night, in the same arena, is nothing new. The two best friends were wrestlers together at the University of Missouri in 2004 and 2005. Woodley then helped coach Askren for two more years. Both played integral roles in making the program what it is today: a consistent national power.
Woodley, in Columbia from 2000 to 2005, was a two-time All-American and claimed the first Big 12 title in Missouri history in 2003. Askren, a Tiger from 2004 to 2007, is the best wrestler to ever wear the black and gold. He went 157-8 overall, going 87-0 his final two years of college. Askren won the national championship in 2006 and 2007 and earned the Dan Hodge Trophy -- the college wrestling equivalent to the Heisman -- both years.
Woodley and Askren came from different paths, but what they did together in Missouri changed the program forever.