NEWARK, NEW JERSEY---With 69 professional wins and a UFC heavyweight belt between them, tonight's co-main event of the evening between seventh ranked contender "Big" Ben Rothwell and eighth ranked Josh "The Baby Faced Assassin" Barnett was a bout between two experienced, powerful fighters.
And surprisingly, a knockout was not how it ended, but instead a submission.
As most heavyweight battles, the first moments, the first 35 seconds to be exact, were about the fighters feeling each other out. Then, "Big Ben" threw the first strikes of the contest, which hit only air, while Barnett landed the first blow, a nice jab to the body.
However, and spurring some "boo birds," the action slowed back down to a pace where very few confrontations transpired in the first two minutes. Moreover, the strikes that were offered did not land for either! Obviously, one would want to be cautious when facing an opponent with as much power as either, but the beginning of this one was down right boring.
Thankfully though, the back-and-forth action would eventually transpire as Barnett slowly opened up Rothwell's nose while fighting in a southpaw stance. Later, "The Baby Faced Assassin" landed a heavy left hook that temporarily stunned the opposition. Coming forward and looking to possibly end the fight, Barnett was given a dose of his own medicine with a pair of strikes that made him woozy. But, the previous did not inhibit the former heavyweight champion (Barnett) from recovering and laying open "Big Ben's" nose before the round's conclusion.
Encouraged by his corner to initiate the clinch more, Josh Barnett did exactly that just 45 seconds into the second round. As most fighters do when in the clinch, Rothwell back peddled to the side of the octagon so he could stay upright.
Barnett, knowing there was nothing to accomplish with his adversary against the side of the octagon, exited the close quarters, but was nailed by an uppercut on the way out.
Following a little lull, in which both guys actually swung and missed on strike attempts, the two opened up and stood toe-to-toe with each other before the "The Baby Faced Assassin" trapped "Big Ben's" left leg. Looking for the takedown, Barnett put Rothwell on his butt while looking to gain a better position.
Why a better position you ask? Barnett's neck was trapped as his opponent had Barnett's head close to his chest and began to put all of his weight on it. Furthermore, Rothwell began to twist and crank the neck under his control. Ouch! Yeah, ouch indeed, which is why Barnett tapped out for the first "legitimate" time in his professional career (guillotine choke) and Ben Rothwell was ready for a jolt up the heavyweight ladder.
He Said It (Part I)
"That's a warning sign to Stipe (Miocic) and Wolverine, or anyone else that thinks they have the title fight coming. Step up in here with me, and I'll prove I am the number one contender."
---Ben Rothwell on what it means to submit Josh Barnett for the only legitimate time of the latter's career.
He Said It (Part II)
"Josh Barnett just made me an better fighter than I ever could be. I have been watching him for many years and to submit him--this is a message to the rest of the heavyweight division. But I will go out and win the title and defend it, but this will remain one of the greatest victories of my career."