When Ben Rothwell steps into the Octagon this Sunday to face Junior dos Santos, he will do so with aim of firmly establishing himself as the number one contender for the UFC heavyweight title. Should he leave Zagreb with a fifth straight UFC victory under his belt, can he really be passed over for a title shot?
The Kenosha, Wisconsin native is, as alluded to above, currently riding a 4-fight winning streak, having finished each of those fights – 2 by knockout, 2 by submission. The most impressive of these surely must be his most recent outing against MMA and grappling legend, Josh Barnett. In the second round of that match-up, Barnett looked to take the fight to the ground, only for Rothwell to grab hold of his neck, sinking in his favourite technique – the gogó choke. Barnett had no option but to tap, marking the first time in his MMA career that he had tapped out to a submission hold. It was the second consecutive win for Rothwell using that particular submission, the previous one coming against Matt Mitrione seven months earlier.
However, that victory over former TUF contender Mitrione was not the number one thing that made headlines for Rothwell that night – it was his post-fight speech that got the most attention. Aside from the ominous promise that “you have seen nothing yet” followed by that demonic laugh, there was a powerful statement of intent from Rothwell. He claimed that “the mixed martial artist you once knew, I am no more. I am something completely different………. I will have the UFC title. I know right now there is not a man on this planet that can stop me inside this octagon.” Combine that self-promotion with his crowd pleasing performance and his haunting entrance that night and the UFC had a fighter who just had a massive surge in popularity. Seemingly with each fight, each interview, “Big” Ben gains more and more fans.
An example of Rothwell’s growing popularity can be found by looking at his relationship with Irish MMA fans. Back in October of 2015, Rothwell was scheduled to meet Stipe Miocic in the co-main event of the UFC’s third event in Dublin. Unfortunately, Miocic suffered an injury and the bout was scrapped, with Rothwell removed from the card as a suitable replacement could not be found on short notice. Rothwell, however, still made the trip to the Emerald Isle and spent fight week attending various signing events, meet & greets, Q&A sessions and generally spending time with the fans of Ireland. By the end of that week, the Irish had virtually adopted Rothwell as one of their own and continue to support him to this day. In fact, Rothwell told MMA Latest at the UFC Zagreb media day that he hopes to win the heavyweight title and defend it in Dublin at some point. As we know from recent MMA history, popularity is one of the keys to getting a title shot and Rothwell has rapidly become one of, if not the most popular heavyweight in the world.
As far as other potential contenders in the division go, only two other realistic options come to mind – Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez. This is, of course, provided they both win their upcoming fights. In the case of Overeem, Rothwell knocked him out in the first round during his current win streak, so that should have him firmly ahead of the Dutchman in the pecking order. Velasquez, however, may be a more likely candidate, for the sole reason that he was scheduled to rematch current UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum in February before an injury derailed those plans. This is one of those situations where Rothwell could become a beneficiary of circumstance, however, for one reason – Werdum has a title defence coming up against the man Rothwell was supposed to fight in Dublin, Stipe Miocic. Depending on who comes out on top in that match-up, that could determine the next title challenger in the UFC’s eyes. To matchmakers, a Werdum win might mean a rematch with Velasquez is more attractive, but, if Miocic becomes the new champion, making the match that never happened with him against Rothwell may seem like the better idea. If Rothwell wins impressively on Sunday, I would personally give him the title shot regardless of the outcome of the upcoming title fight, but whether the UFC feels the same remains to be seen.
Rothwell currently holds the second longest winning run in the heavyweight division, behind only the current champion, Werdum who has won his past 6. Should Rothwell extend his own winning streak to 5 in Zagreb, he will have knocked off 4 straight opponents ranked in the UFC’s top 15, with 3 of those in the top 10. It is close to impossible to argue that those statistics are highly impressive and surely worthy of a shot at UFC gold in anyone’s language. Of course, that is not taking Sunday for granted, because Rothwell faces stiff opposition in former UFC heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos. However, Rothwell has all of the momentum heading into their main event clash and everything seems to have clicked into place for him to earn his title shot.
Get in touch and let us know what you think on Twitter @MMALatestNws or contact me directly @KeefeMcKenna if you prefer. Whatever your opinion, make sure to tune into UFC Zagreb on Sunday to see who prevails in this gargantuan heavyweight bout between “Big” Ben Rothwell and Junior “Cigano” dos Santos.
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
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