Top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Josh Barnett and Ben Rothwell collided in a pivotal bout last night (Jan. 30, 2016) at UFC on FOX 18 inside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Barnett returned from a lengthy absence to put on one of the best performances of his career, and he was looking to follow that up with another win here. After many, many years, Barnett was in a position to potentially earn a UFC title shot last night.
Similarly, a long road of ups and downs brought Rothwell into this match up with plenty of his own momentum. This was a match up of Heavyweight's two dark horse contenders, and only one man could take another step towards the strap.
Barnett took the center of the Octagon and attempted to attack with quick punches. Barnett defended himself well and shot out some jabs in return, and both men traded low kicks early. They also traded some positions in the clinch, but neither man accomplished much with a minute remaining in the first.
At that point, the combinations began flowing a bit more, as Rothwell caught his opponent with some wide hooks. Barnett also scored with some straight punches, bloodying his opponent's nose.
All in all, the first round was too close to call.
This dance continued into the second round, though the two were definitely exchanging more. Rothwell connected with his usual combinations of right hand and right uppercut, while Barnett continued to pick his moments to score with long strikes.
Rothwell started to get far more aggressive with his combinations at about the halfway point, and he began to pick up some momentum. Barnett tried to change things up with a well-timed single leg, but that was ultimately a decision that cost him the fight.
As Barnett drove into the shot, Rothwell got his hips back and began fishing for his opponent's neck. Before long, he had secured his grip and jammed his opponent's head underneath his neck into the 10 finger guillotine position. Not only did he force Barnett to abandon the takedown, but Rothwell reversed him and finished the submission.
After eight or so minutes of tepid exchanges, Rothwell became the first man to ever submit Josh Barnett. This is the biggest victory of his entire career, and Rothwell has had a very strong career. It cannot be understated how big of a moment this was for Rothwell.
He didn't just beat Barnett, he submitted him. That's genuinely shocking.
Following this incredible performance, Rothwell's claim for a title fight is arguably the strongest in the division. He knocked out one of the other top contenders -- Alistair Overeem, who's rumored to be in contract negotiations anyway -- and Stipe Miocic has only won his last two.
It's probably not going to happen due to popularity, but Rothwell deserves his shot and should fight Werdum for the belt.
It's hard to get a read on this performance by Barnett. On the whole, he seemed to be doing fairly well striking with the heavier hitter, but he failed to get his clinch or takedown game going. When he tried to time a reactive shot and switch things up, it bit him in the ass in the most unexpected way possible.
MMA Crazy. Heavyweight MMA crazier.
Following this loss, it's not clear where Barnett heads from here. If he decides to keep fighting -- and rumor is that he left his gloves in the cage, so that may not be definite -- a match with fellow former champion Andrei Arlovski would make sense.
Last night, Ben Rothwell caught Josh Barnett in a tight guillotine to submit the legendary grappler. Can Rothwell get his hands on the UFC title?
For complete UFC on FOX 18: "Johnson vs Bader" results and play-by-play, click HERE!