Two powerful heavyweights in need of a victory will meet tomorrow night (April 21, 2012) as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 finalist Brendan Schaub battles International Fight League (IFL) veteran Ben Rothwell on the UFC 145 main card in Atlanta, Georgia.
Schaub was hoping to turn himself into a "legend-killer" after his victory over Mirko Cro Cop, but a big right hand from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira halted his divisional momentum. He's had plenty of time to think about his last loss and now he's ready to get back to business.
Rothwell, meanwhile, was hoping to reinvent himself with a new diet and training, but he looked like a shell of his former self against Mark Hunt in one of 2011's sorriest performances in the high altitude of Denver. He's also had plenty of time to re-evaluate everything and he's hoping a high profile victory over Schaub will get him back on track.
Will Schaub eclipse the "Northstar?" Can Rothwell clip "The Hybrid" with his heavy fists? What's the key to victory for both men tomorrow night?
Let's find out:Brendan Schaub
Record: 8-2 overall, 4-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Mirko Filipovic (UFC 128), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC 121), Chris Tuchscherer (UFC 116)
Key Losses: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 134), Roy Nelson (The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale)
How he got here: After playing football at Colorado, Brendan Schaub had a brief stint in the professional leagues, playing some arena football as well as spending time on the Buffalo Bills practice squad. When it became apparent he wasn't going to make it in football, "The Hybrid" turned to fighting.
After developing his skills in Colorado at the Grudge Training Center and winning his first four professional fights in less than four minutes combined, Schaub made his big debut on TUF 10. Schaub impressively blasted his way to the finals, defeating eventual Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) competitors Marcus Jones and Jon Madsen via knockout in the process.
In the finals, his lack of experience would come into play as Roy Nelson made him crash and burn with a huge right hand that sent him to the canvas for his first career loss.
Schaub has since rebounded nicely, scoring easy first round knockouts against Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer before being thrown to the big dogs. He handled former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga over the course of three rounds and followed it up with a devastating third round knockout of fading legend Mirco "Cro Cop" Filipovic in what had been a hotly contested bout.
Schaub called out former Pride and UFC heavyweight champion Nogueira afterwards but he bit off more than he could chew, getting stopped via strikes in the first round at the UFC's return to Brazil last year. He's hoping to bounce back against Rothwell.
How he gets it done: Schaub should have a serious speed and footwork advantage against Rothwell and in my opinion, he can win this fight just about anywhere. If he keeps his distance and works his technical boxing, he should be able to outland Rothwell on the feet while avoiding his power.
If things go awry, Schaub has some pretty good takedowns and if he can put Rothwell on his back, I'd like to see him work hard for some ground and pound, using his physical presence to keep "Northstar" down and hurt him with strikes.
Rothwell has a tremendous chin, but as long as Schaub can utilize his strengths here, at the worst he'll come away with a decision.
Record: 31-8 overall, 1-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Roy Nelson (IFL: Moline), Gilbert Yvel (UFC 115), Ricco Rodriguez (IFL Finals 2007)
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 104), Mark Hunt (UFC 135), Andrei Arlovski (Affliction: Banned)
How he got here: Ben Rothwell got a very early start in professional fighting, making his debut at just 17 years old. He didn't waste any time either, fighting a ridiculous 11 times in a one year stretch from November 2001 until November 2002.
Rothwell made a tremendous impact in the IFL, going on an impressive nine fight winning streak in the fledgling promotion and defeating the likes of Roy Nelson, Travis Fulton, Ricco Rodriguez and Krzysztof Soszynski (twice) in the process.
His run earned him a fight against former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at Affliction:Banned in 2008, but after going two strong rounds, he would fade in the third and be knocked out. "Big Ben" would make his UFC debut against Cain Velasquez in 2009, getting physically dominated with wrestling and would have the fight stopped after eating multiple blows to the face while rising to his feet in a bit of mild controversy.
The Midwestern fighter got back on track at UFC 115, outgrappling Gilbert Yvel in a competitive back and forth affair in which Rothwell blew out his knee early in the first round. After 15 months away from the Octagon, he returned to face Mark Hunt and ran out of gas quickly, losing a decision in Denver. He might be fighting for his job this weekend against Schaub.
How he gets it done: Rothwell has some serious power, but the key will be actually being able to utilize it. He's not the fastest fighter out there, so he's going to have to create situations where Schaub will not be able to get out of the way of his fists.
Look for Rothwell to stalk Schaub down, moving forward constantly to try to corner him against the fence where he won't have escape routes. Schaub does not utilize very good head movement so if he can't escape a rough situation with his feet, he could be in trouble.
He's going to have to pace himself, however, if he doesn't want to be plagued by the conditioning issues that seriously haunted him against Hunt in his last fight.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be the mental state for both men. Brendan Schaub was on the verge of title contention before Nogueira sent him crashing back down to Earth. Rothwell, on the other hand, thought he had a gimme fight against Hunt and felt he was in the best physical shape of his life before gassing out harder than perhaps any fighter I've ever seen in my life.
Both men have to be devastated by the results of their last performances and how they respond and have improved since will be a huge factor in who wins this bout. They also could be discouraged quickly if their gameplans aren't as effective as they were originally intending either.
Bottom Line: Unless Rothwell gasses out horribly again, this fight should not be boring. It's not taking place in Denver which is a good sign so you should have high expectations. Both men are powerful punchers and are capable of finishing a fight quickly if they connect solidly and both usually like to slug it out. I expect a high action stand-up battle with occasional takedowns from Schaub should he see an opening. The odds are favorable that this one has high octane action.
Who will come out on top at UFC 145? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!