There was more than one heavyweight war on the UFC 135: "Jones vs. Rampage" main card tonight (Sept. 24) in Denver, Colorado, as Ben Rothwell made his long awaited return from injury to battle Mark Hunt.
It was a mismatch on paper. "Big" Ben was by far the more experienced of the two, at least as far as MMA goes, and there's no need to drudge up Hunt's laughable 6-7 record.
Numbers mean nothing once punches are flying around, though, and "The Super Samoan" was landing his fair share of heavy-handed shots, straight to the dome. That's not to mention the cut that Hunt opened up on Rothwell that clearly seemed to affect his game for the remainder of the bout.
That and the high altitude in Denver.
Rothwell gassed, badly, and Hunt used (somewhat) superior conditioning to dominate the remainder of the contest en route to an improbable unanimous decision victory.
Rothwell knew coming into this fight that his opponent is a former K-1 champion with big power and dangerously deceptive speed. Heading into the night, he referred to him as "one-dimensional."
That's probably why Rothwell spent little time standing with him and quickly took him to the floor on his third takedown attempt. To the surprise of many, though, Hunt's takedown defense was shockingly sufficient, to the point that Rothwell was quite clearly frustrated, even in the opening round.
Persistence pays, too, as exhaustion quickly caught up to "Big" Ben in the "Mile High" city, enough so that Hunt owned the second frame with all the basics. Effective striking, grappling, aggression and Octagon control, folks, it's easy as that.
Watching Rothwell pleading with the MMA God's to give him breath in between rounds was physically painful. Color commentator Joe Rogan referred to him as a "warrior" and a "zombie" and I suppose those were the right words to describe him at that point.
It was downright ugly. So ugly, in fact, that the final horn may as well have been the signal to alert the medics that both men so clearly needed. Hunt's victory is a side note to one of the most painful fights in UFC history.
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