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The time may soon come where Ultimate Fighting Championship announcer Bruce Buffer has to say the words “Huggy Bear” at an event.
A report from Fight Bananas came out on Thursday stating that Ben Rothwell (38-13) has a new opponent. Rothwell, once booked against Philipe Lins and then later Askar Mozharov, will now be meeting UFC newcomer Chris Barnett (21-6) at UFC Fight Night 188. Ukraine’s Mozharov was forced to withdraw due to visa issues. The news of this heavyweight clash at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
Barnett, a frequent super heavyweight, has bounced around promotions like Road FC and Island Fights over the years. The man known as “Huggy Bear,” and more recently as “Beastboy,” is riding a six-fight win streak with four knockouts into his signing. His level of competition throughout his career has been questioned, although knockout victories over Walt Harris and Travis Wiuff years ago have held up. In this current stretch, his biggest name win came against the gargantuan Alexandru Lungu, where he entered the contest at a 50-pound weight disadvantage but still scored an early knockout.
With a nearly similar career knockout rate – Rothwell’s is 74 percent compared to Barnett’s at 76 percent – Rothwell will be aiming to bounce back from a unanimous decision loss in October 2020. The defeat snapped a two-fight streak of wins where Rothwell knocked out Stefan Struve after committing several fouls, and then took a split verdict over Ovince St. Preux. Of note, Rothwell is the only fighter in MMA history to tap out Josh Barnett – no relation to his upcoming opponent – doing so with an unusual 10-finger guillotine gogo choke in 2016.
UFC Fight Night 188 goes down on May 22 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, with a bantamweight brawl between Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt serving as the headliner. Other key matchups include a potential strawweight title eliminator match between Xiaonan Yan and Carla Esparza, while Jack Hermansson takes on Edmen Shahbazyan a week later than expected at middleweight.
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