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UFC Fight Night 86 results recap: Junior dos Santos vs Ben Rothwell fight review and analysis

Junior dos Santos and Ben Rothwell went to war at UFC Fight Night 86 inside Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia. In a clear victory, dos Santos picked his opponent apart for a decision win. Find out how below!

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight contenders Junior dos Santos and Ben Rothwell clashed on Sunday (April 10, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 86 inside Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia.

Full fight video highlights HERE.

Dos Santos has been in something of a slump for the last couple years. Though he entered this bout still in the top five, dos Santos needed the victory here to maintain that position and return to the title hunt.

Rothwell, meanwhile, has been tearing through tough competition lately. He's emerged as a top contender, and "Big Ben" was looking to prove himself worthy of a title shot last night.

Rothwell opened up with some weird movement before stalking his opponent, and dos Santos responded by trying to pick his shots from the outside. Rothwell attempted his first flurry about two minutes in, and he did land a few nice shots. Meanwhile, dos Santos continued to work with jabs and crosses to the body.

By the halfway point of the round, Rothwell seemed to find his range a bit. He began to score with his overhand more frequently, and Rothwell scored after walking dos Santos into the fence a few times, capitalizing on that well-known flaw of the Brazilian.

Overall, it was a rather close round, but Rothwell seemed to have a slight edge.

Dos Santos found some good success early in the round, as dos Santos did a nice job countering his opponent's attempts to get inside. However, Rothwell adjusted by focusing more on his low kicks, which were consistently digging into his opponent's lead leg.

Besides focusing on speed, dos Santos did a much better job keeping his back off the fence in the center round. On the whole, dos Santos did a very nice job limiting his opponent's opportunities to unload.

To really put his mark on a strong round, "Cigano" stunned his opponent with a hard overhand at the bell.

Rothwell seemed to recover well between rounds, but dos Santos was the quicker and fresher fighter. Dos Santos stuck to his game plan and maintained his rhythm, while Rothwell tried to flurry occasionally.

On the whole, Rothwell did land when he through, but "Big Ben" was definitely slowing down. On the other hand, "JDS" maintained his high volume and kept working, continuing to chip away at his opponent's mid-section.

It was another strong round for the former champion.

Overall, the fourth round was more of the same. Rothwell occasionally scored with a nice shot or two, but he didn't throw nearly enough volume. On the other hand, dos Santos stuck to the script very well and touched his opponent with long jabs and crosses, clearing winning the vast majority of exchanges.

"Big Ben" needed a finish in the final frame.

To his credit, Rothwell tried to make something happen. However, his opponent was too disciplined, and Rothwell was too worn down to really connect with any big combinations. Instead, dos Santos continued to pick his opponent apart, clearly boxing his opponent up to a decision victory.

This was more than a return to form for dos Santos. He looked better than ever, as dos Santos showed much better awareness in regards to staying off the fence. He picked his moments to strike well, landing and escaping before Rothwell could counter.

That's long been dos Santos' fatal flaw, so it was great to see him improve upon that weakness.

Furthermore, his conditioning was excellent. "Cigano" maintained a fantastic pace across five rounds, and it wasn't like he avoided getting hit entirely. Dos Santos ate some hard punches and low kicks, but it never slowed his pace.

Eventually, Rothwell simply couldn't keep up.

Simply put, dos Santos performed excellently and looks reinvigorated. He's definitely back in the title mix, but there isn't a clear path for "JDS" at the moment. In all likelihood, dos Santos will be rematching someone in the top five in his next bout.

Rothwell fought reasonably well, but this ended up being a bad match up for him. Dos Santos was in prime form, and Rothwell has always struggled with fighters who keep him on the edge of their range. That's the game plan dos Santos executed to perfection, and Rothwell suffered because of it.

If there was one thing Rothwell should've done, it was commit to his low kicks earlier. Rothwell -- along with every other large Heavyweight -- kicks really freaking hard. Dos Santos is not used to using that much lateral movement and thus was open to the low kicks, so if Rothwell had started working over his legs early, it would've had a huge effect.

Regardless of the loss, Rothwell is still in the title hunt, as the top five at Heavyweight is an odd situation. Rothwell, dos Santos, Miocic, and Overeem all have traded wins and losses with no clear leader among them, so consecutive wins for any of those men could equal a big opportunity.

Last night, Junior dos Santos put on a stellar performance to return to the win column. Can the Brazilian get reclaim his title?

For complete UFC Fight Night 86 "Dos Santos vs Rothwell" results and play-by-play, click HERE!

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