This fight was the dictionary definition of arduous.
I think with hindsight 20/20, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva regrets putting two huge heavyweights on the UFC 135 main card last night (September 24, 2011) in an event located over a mile above sea level.
When they failed to score a finish in the first round, both men began to feel the burden of the thin air, resulting in perhaps the most gassed out main card fight in UFC history.
It wasn't pretty, but the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt was able to endure over the course of three rounds to take a unanimous decision victory against his exhausted foe, Ben Rothwell.
So how in the world did Hunt pull it off? We'll break it down inside:
Ben Rothwell got off to a strong start. He kept his distance, used his reach advantage and shot in for a huge takedown about two minutes into the fight, passing directly into mount. Unlike past performance where he would panic and get submitted, Hunt got an underhook and escaped the poor position, exploding back to his feet.
It was the second round where everything began to unravel for Ben Rothwell. Hunt blasted him with some sharp leg kicks that buckled "Big Ben's" knees and began to stuff all his takedown attempts. When they clinched against the fence two minutes into the round, Hunt actually used a trip takedown to put Rothwell on his back and pound on him from his guard.
Rothwell, completely gassed, just sat there and ate punishment for a couple minutes before finally attempting to escape. Instead though, Mark Hunt took full mount on him and set up for an armbar. Yeah, that wasn't a typo. Mark Hunt attempted an armbar.
That doesn't mean it was pretty.
Hunt had the perfect opportunity for the armbar. His opponent was gassed and practically giving it to him but he threaded his right leg under Rothwell's armpit instead of across his face to create the proper leverage to finish the submission. This allowed Rothwell to keep his hands locked together until the end of the round.
Notice how exhausted Rothwell is afterwards. His head coach Duke Roufus practically had to carry him to his corner stool.
The third round was more of the same. Hunt was tired, but Rothwell was more tired. There isn't much to analyze, just that Hunt outstruck and outgrappled "The North Star" in the final frame to take a surprising decision victory.
For Ben Rothwell, this has to be humiliating. Despite his dedication to a new diet and to improving his physical fitness, he gassed harder than perhaps anyone in UFC history. Sure the high altitude had something to do with it, but the exponentially less physically gifted men from UFC 1 had to deal with the same thing fighting multiple times in the same night and they put on a better performance than he did.
He'll likely get another fight, perhaps against fellow UFC 135 main card loser Rob Broughton. Other possibilities include Christian Morecraft or the recently resigned Golden Glory fighter Jon Olav Einemo.
For Mark Hunt, wow. He really put the time in to improve his ground game. His takedown defense was significantly improved in this fight and he actually had an offensive ground game which included passing Rothwell's guard to side control multiple times. I wish he'd kept it standing more in the third round though, when Rothwell could barely stand. That was a perfect opportunity for another "walk away knockout" like he did against Chris Tuchscherer.
I guess Hunt is "in the mix" now after two straight victories in the heavyweight division. Interesting opponents would be Travis Browne or perhaps the winner of the upcoming Roy Nelson vs. Mirko Filipovic fight.
Mark Hunt relevant in 2011. Just keep saying that in your head and see if it sounds less strange after some repetition.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Was this fight entertaining, or did the fact that both men gassed pretty badly sap the fun out of it for you? Did you ever think you'd see Mark Hunt go for an armbar?
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.