Ben Rothwell picked up a statement win on Saturday night. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Ben Rothwell’s finish of Matt Mitrione was as abrupt as his post-fight interview was bizarre, but regardless of his methods, the Kenosha, Wisc., native is now poised to do big things in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Rothwell made short work of Matt Mitrione in the UFC Fight Night co-headliner on Saturday night, as he choked out “The Ultimate Fighter 10” alum with a front choke 1:54 into the initial stanza. The finish came just moments after Mitrione attempted his first takedown in 13 UFC appearances.
“That was so stupid,” said Mitrione, who saw a three-fight winning streak come to a perplexing end. “Why did I do that?”
As expected, the two men traded blows on the feet early in their encounter, but a poorly-conceived body-lock takedown attempt from Mitrione allowed Rothwell to secure the fight-ending choke. Moments later, he was tapping out with both hands.
“I managed to flatten him out and as he recovered, his neck was wide open,” Rothwell said. “People will see, if you leave your neck open for a second, I’m going to catch you.”
Whatever “Meathead’s” reasoning in the heat of the moment might have been, it worked out nicely for Rothwell. The International Fight League veteran won for the fourth time in five outings, a streak that also includes victories over Alistair Overeem, Brandon Vera and Brendan Schaub.
Now, Rothwell has his sights set on bigger game, although he doesn’t believe a title shot is in his future just yet.
“I think Stipe [Miocic] should get the next title shot; he's established himself,” Rothwell said. “Andrei Arlovski is on a winning streak and ranked fourth, and I think him and I should fight for the next spot. The only fight that matters to me now is the No. 1 contender spot.”
Miocic is coming off a lopsided thrashing of Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night in Australia on May 10 and has won four of his last five fights overall. Even in defeat, the Ohio native was impressive, as he battled former champion Junior dos Santos tooth-and-nail before dropping a five-round verdict at UFC on Fox 13 in December.
Rothwell, meanwhile, has unfinished business with Arlovski, who has won three straight himself and is coming off a spectacular first-round stoppage of Travis Browne at UFC 187. Rothwell lost to Arlovski via third-round knockout when they first fought at Affliction “Banned” on July 19, 2008.
Both men have experienced a full-blown career resurgence since then. Rothwell, for one, believes he only just finally realized his full potential.
“I feel accomplished but at the same time, once again, I knew this was going to happen,” he said. “With my last fight, you can see that I'm just in a different place right now. I’ve finally become the martial artist I knew I could be.”