Last night (Sat., Dec. 7, 2019), Stefan Struve walked to the Octagon for the 23rd time, and he suffered his eighth career knockout loss as a result. Perhaps not a shocking outcome on paper given his history of getting toppled alongside “Big” Ben Rothwell’s ridiculous 28 career knockout wins, but it was absolutely the strangest fight on a card full of bizarre bouts.
If you’re hoping for technical analysis, look elsewhere, for this is not the fight for such talk. I can only hope to chronicle the weirdness that plagued both men.
If this article were merely titled “The Curious Case of Stefan Struve,” the obvious topic of discussion would be the seven-foot high Dutchman’s inability to fight tall. For years and years and years, fight fans around the globe have hoped that Struve would finally make the most of his remarkable length. By 2019, we’ve all accepted that it just isn’t going to happen.
Yet, Struve’s kickboxing against Rothwell was among the best work of his career. I’ve long been a proponent of the idea that Struve should simply not punch unless absolutely necessary. No fast, snappy jab has developed nor will it. Struve pushes punches that are easily countered more often than not. However, the giant man weighs something like 280 lbs. on fight night, and a lot of that weight is carried in the legs.
When one of those legs slams into an opponent, it produces a noticeable effect.
Rothwell was feeling those kicks, as Struve really did an excellent job of chopping the lead leg, snapping a front kick, and even scoring some hard high kicks. So, there’s our first serious oddity of the bout: Struve fought tall reasonably well!
Of course, the focal point of the strangeness was certainly the pair of low blows that will surely wreck the lives of Struve’s future children. Twice, Rothwell tried to step into a left body kick, and twice his shin connected straight into Struve’s cup.
I truly have sympathy for both men here. Struve suffered in obvious agony twice. A good ref would have deducted a point the first time and disqualified Rothwell on the second strike. A good ref certainly would not have told Struve was winning the fight in what seemed like an attempt to keep the fight going.
It was not a good night for reffing, but unfortunately, that’s perhaps the only standard component of this whole confusing jumble.
And yet, while I would argue the case for disqualifying Rothwell, I have plenty of sympathy for “Big Ben” as well. It’s not his fault that Struve’s genitals are a foot higher than they should be — a foot higher than that of just about every other opponent that Rothwell has faced in his nearly two-decade career. Think Rothwell wanted to land that second groin strike? He immediately slumped against the cage in defeat.
Rothwell previously spent 48 professional fights throwing that left body kick at roughly the same height, and suddenly, Struve’s absurd anatomy made it an illegal blow. It’s still Rothwell’s fault, but I empathize with the veteran. Rothwell absorbed a full head kick right before the first illegal blow. Is it absurd to believe that head trauma would cause Rothwell to not think clearly and rely more on muscle memory?
The peculiar nature of this bout left no unaffected parties. Struve suffered the most, finding himself on the wrong end of a knockout loss when things were finally going well for him. Dan Miragliotta will deservedly get quite a bit of heat for his (in)actions. Rothwell got his win bonus, sure, but it’s a tainted victory. The situation will most likely be treated as if Rothwell lost for a fourth consecutive time, which does little to help his job security or position in the division.
UFC “DC” was a surreal event, and in the odd bout between Stefan Struve and Ben Rothwell, everyone walked away worse off for their efforts.
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