Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Ben Rothwell dueled in a pivotal bout last night (June 6, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 68 inside Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mitrione entered this bout with a bit of momentum, having scored three quick knockout wins in a row. Rothwell was the most experienced fighter that he had faced in some time, so this was a pretty major opportunity for "Meathead" to finally emerge as a contender.
Rothwell, meanwhile, has been fighting for a very long time. After an incredibly mediocre start to his UFC career, he came into this bout on a bit of a resurgence, having won his last two in impressive fashion. Opposite a talented fighter like Mitrione, Rothwell was looking to make a statement.
He did just that.
Early on, things were looking up for Mitrione. The former professional footballer player bounced in-and-out, scoring with some powerful punches. Rothwell landed a couple shots, but overall Mitrione seemed to be doing a nice job making him miss and getting into his game.
Then, Mitrione inexplicably shot for a double leg takedown against the experienced wrestler and submission grappler. Rothwell used a whizzer to sprawl -- and when Mitrione was not quick to scramble back up -- latched onto his neck.
Just a few seconds later, Mitrione was tapping with both hands, as the choke was clearly tight.
Though I'm quite well-versed in submissions -- particularly front chokes -- this was a weird one. At its core, it's similar to a ten finger grip guillotine. With Mitrione's head stuck under his chest, Rothwell was able to pull his hands straight up while keeping his chest in place. Basically, he was crushing Mitrione's Adam's Apple and throat, which is extremely painful and explains the frantic tapping.
The strange part was how it was finished. Mitrione spun to his back to defend, but Rothwell held on tight and continued applying pressure. However, it was now on the side of Mitrione's neck, due to the heavyweight's attempt to spin out.
Strange, but certainly effective, stuff by "Big Ben."
With his current win streak, Rothwell has finally lived up to expectations. He's a legitimate top 10 fighter with finishing ability in his hands and on the mat, which is a bit of a rarity at heavyweight. He's unlikely to ever end up fighting for the title, but there's still some fight left in him after 40-some fights.
After this victory, Rothwell should pair off with Andrei Arlovski or Stipe Miocic. If Cain Velasquez successfully defends his title next week, one of those two will fight him next, leaving the other to step into the cage with Rothwell.
Mitrione's performance was frustrating to watch. He's clearly got talent, both athletically and with his kickboxing skills. Unfortunately, his ground game is severely underdeveloped, as he's been easily submitted the last two times he's touched the mat.
The real problem here is that Mitrione set himself up for failure. There are plenty of heavyweights across history who have a major weakness in some area of the game, but nonetheless managed to do quite well by fighting to their strengths. If Mitrione isn't going to work on his grappling, he should at least accept that shooting for takedowns is probably a terrible idea.
All that said, Mitrione is still a ranked heavyweight. For his next fight, he should face off with Mark Hunt, which would surely be an enjoyable striking war.
While it lasted.
Last night, Ben Rothwell cemented his place among the best in the world with a quick guillotine win. Does Rothwell have one last title run in him?
For complete UFC Fight Night 68 "Henderson vs Boetsch" results and play-by-play click HERE!