Rivalries: Ben Rothwell

By Brian Knapp May 19, 2021

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Now 51 fights into his career as a professional mixed martial artist, Ben Rothwell walks, talks and acts like a man at peace with his accomplishments.

“Big Ben” will climb back into the Octagon in one of the featured UFC Fight Night 188 prelims this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, where a three-round confrontation with Chris Barnett awaits. Rothwell, who turns 40 in October, owns an 8-7 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He has won two of his last three bouts but finds himself on the rebound following a unanimous decision defeat to Marcin Tybura at UFC Fight Night 179 on Oct. 10. Rothwell boasts 34 finishes among his 38 career victories.

As the Pat Miletich and Duke Roufus protégé prepares for his battle with Barnett, a look at a few of the rivalries that have helped to define him:

Andrei Arlovski


Arlovski buried Rothwell with punches in the third round of their Affliction “Banned” co-headliner on July 19, 2008 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The Pat Miletich protégé bowed out 1:13 into Round 3. Arlovski sent savage kicks crashing into Rothwell’s lead leg, held his own in the clinch and surprised the 6-foot-4, 264-pound Wisconsin native with trip takedowns. The behemoths swapped dominant positions on the ground late in the second round before “The Pit Bull” benefitted from a restart. Arlovksi had “Big Ben” reeling with punches, a close-quarters head kick and a flying knee, as he appeared to be nearing a stoppage when the horn sounded. The one-minute respite was not enough for Rothwell to recover. Arlovksi at the start of the third round picked up where he left off, cornered the International Fight League veteran on the ropes and floored him when he followed an overhand right with a crushing uppercut. With that, referee Josh Rosenthal had seen enough. They met for a second time as past-their-prime heavyweights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2019, as Arlovksi laid claim to a unanimous decision at UFC on ESPN 4. All three judges scored it 30-27 for the Belarusian.

Cain Velasquez


Velasquez put “Big Ben” in his place as soon as he arrived on the scene in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as the American Kickboxing Academy star dispatched Rothwell with punches in the second round of their UFC 104 co-main event on Oct. 24, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Velasquez brought it to a close 58 seconds into Round 2. Rothwell was out of his depth from the start in his organizational debut, as Velasquez executed five takedowns and outstruck him by a 62-3 margin in the significant strike department. The numbers only told part of the story. In practice, it was a gruesome exercise. Velasquez appeared to cross the necessary threshold to force a stoppage in the first round once he started burying a series of elbows into Rothwell’s head, but referee Steve Mazzagatti afforded “Big Ben” every opportunity to gain a foothold in the match. It never happened. Velasquez stepped up his assault early in Round 2, pinned the respected veteran to the fence in a kneeling position and uncorked a series of unabated right hands to prompt Mazzagatti to intervene.

Alistair Overeem


Rothwell dismissed the former Strikeforce champion and 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix winner with an overhand right and a burst of unanswered ground strikes in the UFC Fight Night 50 co-headliner on Sept. 5, 2014 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. “Big Ben” drew the curtain 2:19 into Round 1. Overeem seemed gun-shy from the start. Though the Dutch kickboxer was effective with kicks and knees to the body, he could not keep Rothwell at bay. The monstrous Wisconsin native walked through Overeem’s shots, cracked him with a right hand to the temple and trailed him to the canvas, closing out one of his signature victories with a volley of right hands that forced referee Keith Peterson to act. It was part of a four-fight winning streak for Rothwell that had him knocking on the door to title contention.

Josh Barnett


In what may ultimately go down as his last significant win, Rothwell became the first man to submit Barnett when he tapped the former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder with a guillotine choke in the second round of their UFC on Fox 18 co-main event on Jan. 30, 2016 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Barnett asked out of the match 3:48 into Round 2. Rothwell walked down the CSW cornerstone with punches and trapped him on the feet. Barnett could not get his clinch game or his takedowns in gear, and though he bloodied Rothwell’s nose with a series of stiff jabs in the first round, it was clear the action was not developing as he had hoped. In the second round, he dove on a single-leg and wandered into a 10-finger guillotine—Rothwell called it a “gogo choke”—from which there was no escape. “Big Ben” pancaked Barnett along the fence and applied crushing pressure until the tapout came. Advertisement
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