Ben Rothwell got the win he was desperately looking for last night (Sat., Dec. 7, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 7 live on ESPN from inside Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., when he took out heavyweight staple Stefan Struve via second-round TKO (punches), but the fight came with a little bit of controversy.
Before his finishing sequence in the second round, Rothwell had connected on two separate, yet equally painful, low blows on Struve. The first accidental kick happened in the first round and had “Skyscraper” rolling around in pain for five hard minutes. Rothwell landed another kick to Struve’s lower region in the early moments of the second round and that forced Struve to take another couple of minutes to recover. When the action resumed Rothwell was able to move in for the kill and get the stoppage.
However, despite his flurry of punches that led to Struve’s demise late in the second round, Rothwell understands that his win may come with an asterisk alongside it after landing the two ill-advised groin shots.
“Yeah, there’s an asterisk, but I can’t do anything about it,” Rothwell said in the post-fight press conference (via MMA Fighting). “I tried to be as apologetic as I could and complimented Stefan Struve for being a man. But, you’ve got to move on. I got myself in a really good position to have a big 2020 with all of my coaching staff and the conditioning I’m in. I just want to look better in my next fight. I want to be noticeably better the next time around.”
Struve had commanded most of the action in the early going by utilizing his height along the cage to limit Rothwell’s offense inside. When the action separated in the middle of the Octagon it was Struve who did more damage on the heels of long jabs and blistering body and leg kicks. Rothwell did what he needed to do to survive the onslaught, but found himself fighting from behind on the judges’ scorecards following a point deduction for his second low blow.
“I was down because I knew they were taking a point [away],” Rothwell said. “So I’m like ‘they might stop the fight.’ But then I looked at his cornermen and they were like ‘You’ve got to fight, you got the fight. Coast to a win. You got this.’ So, I was pretty sure he was going to keep fighting. Everything was against me. I had to get the finish or else I’d lose another decision.
“So I was pretty confident he was going to fight. That is unfortunate the ref said that because he’s basically just repeating what his cornermen were telling him.”
Rothwell, 38, came into this fight riding a disappointing three-fight losing streak, dropping his first two Octagon appearances after returning from a two-year suspension earlier this year. This knockout victory — albeit a controversial one — is exactly what the doctor ordered as Rothwell tries to reclaim momentum in the UFC’s heavyweight division entering 2020.
“I think I was on the chopping block,” Rothwell said. “Let’s be honest, I’ve lost three decisions prior to this. I didn’t get helped, I don’t get finished and I fight to the end. But four losses is four losses and it can’t happen. So, this was crucial.”
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