Barbaric brawler, Tim Boetsch, will collide with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title challenger and all around legend, Dan Henderson, this Saturday (June 6, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 68 inside Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
While he's kept his position inside the Top 15, Boetsch has fallen on some seriously hard times. He's lost four of his last six, and in that time period, his wins weren't exactly dominant. The judges gifted him the win over C.B. Dollaway, while Brad Tavares was picking apart Boetsch prior to a classic comeback.
On the bright side, Boetsch actually put on his best performance in years in his last fight, rocking Thales Leites multiple times. Before making a tactical error that landed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace on top, Boetsch looked quite good for the first time in years.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set and see how he matches up with "Hendo:"
Boetsch excels in close range exchanges. Blending his wrestling and striking together, Boetsch is at his best when in the phone booth throwing uppercuts, knees, and looking to land takedowns.
That said, Boetsch does have some decent distance weapons. While his round kicks aren't particularly fast or powerful, his front kick is very dangerous. Whenever Boetsch's opponent looks to flip the script and pressure him, Boetsch will rely on this weapon.
Considering it's proven effectiveness against Henderson, expect Boetsch to rely on it.
To do what he does best, Boetsch needs to close the distance. To do that, he'll lunge forward with powerful punches, usually his overhand and hook. Rather than just rush straight forward with his head straight up, Boetsch does a decent job rolling while he punches and coming back up with more shots. Though it can leave him open to uppercuts, it generally helps him avoid strikes and get the better of any brawls.
In addition, Boetsch will mix high kicks into his lunging combinations, which can definitely surprise his opponent.
Since Boetsch is pushing forward so heavily, he's often able to end up in the clinch following his punches. Once Boetsch is able to get his hands on his opponent, he doesn't wait around. "The Barbarian" will immediately start throwing strikes, and if this off-balances his opponent, Boetsch will look to throw his opponent to the mat.
In particular, Boetsch is very effective with the uppercut. While pulling down on his opponent's head with one arm, Boetsch will jackhammer uppercuts into his opponent with his free hand. Against Yushin Okami, Boetsch pinned the Judoka's head into the fence before slamming him with twisted uppercuts.
Finally, Boetsch does a nice job striking on the exit of the clinch. When it's clear his opponent is pulling away and Boetsch can no longer control him, Boetsch will plant his feet and commit to a heavy punch. For example, Boetsch pulled off an impressive come-from-behind knockout over Brad Tavares when both men tried to land hooks on the break.
Defensively, Boetsch has a few issues. For one, he largely moves in straight lines. Whether moving forward or retreating, Boetsch does not move in angles. This makes him easier to punish with both combinations and counters.
Boetsch also has a difficult time with fighters who he cannot out-wrestle. If Boetsch is unable to manhandle his opponent in the clinch, then fighters can feel free to stand their ground and hunt for counter punches as he runs in. After getting decked a few times, Boetsch will sometimes stop trying to get in close and stand himself at distance.
Though he was a four-time state champion wrestler in high school, it failed to translate into any major collegiate accomplishments. Nonetheless, Boetsch is an imposing wrestler inside the cage, capable of throwing around his opponent with his trademark "Redneck Judo."
As the nickname implies, the majority of Boetsch's takedowns come from within the clinch. It fits his style of striking very well, and Boetsch looks less comfortable when forced to take an actual shot.
Further fitting to the name, Boetsch has an interesting mix of power slams and technical maneuvers. At times, Boetsch is simply securing a body lock and throwing his opponent down to the mat or powering through a knee pick. Similarly, if his opponent is off-balance from Boetsch's whirl of punches and knees, "The Barbarian" will just throw his foe with all his might.
In addition to these displays of physical dominance, Boetsch will occasionally whip out some sweet trips. These were particularly useful against Nick Ring, as the Canadian made some positional errors in his fatigue that allowed Boetsch to introduce him to the mat in spectacular fashion.
For example, Boetsch used a whizzer to toss Ring through the air in the final round of their scrap. Having just been kneed in the face, Ring was standing quite tall. This allowed Boetsch to step his hips in front of Ring and turn hard, lifting Ring from his feet with the whizzer.
Defensively, Boetsch is actually a fairly average fighter. Outside of Yushin Okami -- who was utterly dominating Boetsch for much of the fight -- Boetsch hasn't really found any success when matched up with another wrestler. This is partially because the lack of the takedown threat hurts his stand up offense, but it doesn't help that a well-timed double leg will put Boetsch on his back more often than not.
That said, Boetsch's takedown defense did look pretty good in his last bout. Leites managed to work into some good positions in the clinch; spots he usually lands his takedown from. However, Boetsch repeatedly shucked the Brazilian off and pummeled back in for his own underhooks.
Unfortunately, a mistake by Boetsch allowed Leites to secure a takedown directly into mount and quickly led to a finish. After hurting his foe with punches, Boetsch tried to throw elbows when Leites shot for a double against the fence rather than sprawl or do anything to defend the shot. Instead of hurting Leites, those elbows simply let him finish the takedown.
While Boetsch is not really an active pursuer of the submission, he will hunt for his opponent's neck when pressured. He hasn't finished a guillotine choke since his time on the regional scene, but he did threaten with the hold to cause a scramble against Dollaway a few times.
Boetsch grapples like a wrestler who has just learned the basics of submission grappling but never dug deeper into the art. While on top, he does a good job keeping posture and preventing submissions, but he's rarely searching for his own.
Then, when put on his back, Boetsch's inexperience shows. Frankly, it's not by accident that Boetsch has been finished by two ultra rare submissions: a one-armed kimura from Phil Davis and an inverted triangle-kimura combination courtesy of Luke Rockhold. While one time could be a fluke, the fact that Boetsch offered so little to defend those submissions indicates that his overall defense isn't very good.
Further supporting that argument was Boetsch's abysmal display against Leites. Getting taken down almost directly into mount, Boetsch did not hip escape. Then, when Leites was clearly setting up the arm triangle choke -- when even a brief glance at his Wikipedia page would show is among his favorite techniques -- Boetsch showed no urgency and barely attempted to defend it.
It's no wonder Nova Uniao-trained black belt finished him the first time he got on top.
Best Chance For Success
In this bout, Boetsch needs to get into the clinch early and often. While he likely won't be able to take down Henderson early, he can wear on the veteran. Well into his forties, Henderson will fatigue quickly if forced into a wrestling battle.
Prior to exhaustion setting in, Henderson is quite dangerous to "The Barbarian." As mentioned, Boestch backs straight up, and few are better at lining up an overhand knockout like Henderson. If Boetsch hangs out in the boxing range for too long and exchanges with "Hendo," there's a decent chance he'll end up flattened.
Assuming he avoids that fate, Boetsch should be able to impose his will later in the bout. Once he gets on top, Henderson is hardly a submission ace himself, so Boetsch should be able to open up with his ground strikes. If he moves into a dominant position, he'd likely be able to pound out "Hollywood."
Will Tim Boetsch take out the former champion or can Henderson find another big knockout?