UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage - Ben Rothwell vs. Mark Hunt Dissection

UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage will kick off with a bang. Heavyweight brawlers "Big" Ben Rothwell and Mark Hunt collide in the main card's opener.

Stand and bang, don't blink, guaranteed fireworks ... every recycled cliche about two hulking ogres lumbering around and clubbing each others' heads with Porterhouse Steak-sized fists applies to this fan-friendly slobber-knocker.

Still, it's hard to write this off as an unkempt slug-fest when one of the participants won the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2001, was the Australian World Kickboxing Federation (WKBF) Super-Heavyweight Champion and took the full brunt of Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic's legendary "Cemetery Kick" like he was taking a bite of a cheeseburger.

Additionally, it wasn't too long ago that Ben Rothwell cleaved a gleaming nine-fight swathe through the IFL -- including two stoppages of Krzysztof Soszynski and wins over Roy Nelson and Ricco Rodriguez -- and was widely considered the best heavyweight outside of Pride FC and the UFC.

In fact, Rothwell's only losses in his last seventeen fights are to former UFC heavyweight king Andrei Arlovski and current champ Cain Velasquez. Of his thirty-one career victories, Rothwell has finished a surreal twenty-eight of them (17 TKO, 11 subs).

He's yet to show the true venom of his kickboxing and will surely have the opportunity against Hunt, though he'd be wise to jettison bravado and unveil the grappling acumen that once distinguished "Big Ben" as a multifarious up and comer.

Gifs and analysis in the full entry.

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Size and specialties are the two dictating factors here. At 5'10" and barely sneaking in under the 265-pound limit, Hunt's substantial girth is no secret, nor are his glaring strengths and weaknesses.

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He's no Lyoto Machida, but Hunt displays deceiving agility and quickness in short bursts, as we see to the right.

Hunt starts at a crawl as if he's not quite warmed up yet: clenching his fists, shuffling side to side, pawing the jab and then re-setting his stance, finding a rhythm while scanning his opponent stoically.

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After acclimating Chris Tuchscherer to this dawdling pace, Hunt steps on the gas and vaults into range with a scorching combination.

Hunt, despite his steep kickboxing pedigree, generally takes care of business with his hands.

Here he shows his two best punches: his left hook and right uppercut.

The left hook he tags Tuchscherer with is pure poetry. The snap, quickness and accuracy of the punch are phenomenal, and the force he generates from the torque of his waist is profound.

He thrives at close range. If he could lean back against the ropes and go tit for tat, he'd do it all night long.

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Hunt's wide body and excellent balance do instill him with a decent ability to shuck off takedowns. He's also shown an inherent toughness and athleticism to repel takedowns even though his technique is not textbook.

To the right, Hunt again pieces together his left hook and right uppercut, the latter delivered like a short jackhammer from his waist.

Even though Tuchscherer's double leg attempt is an ugly one, Hunt is aware that he's exposed and escapes back to the center of the cage.

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Hunt goes back to his money punches to wrap things up in this sequence.

He keys off his left hook like a jab and the uppercut is his best tool against prospective takedown artists because of its brutal trajectory up the middle of the pocket.

The beauty of the knockout blow is how short and fast it is. This is almost like a six-inch punch that turns Tuchscherer's lights out.

Every striker wants to react based on his opponent's movements, but tracking and hitting the target with maximum efficiency is an area Mark Hunt excels.

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Contemporary Rothwell gifs were scarce, so let's take a walk down memory lane to his days of dominance in the IFL.

Rothwell has a distinctive snap in his left hook, as depicted to the right catching Krzysztof Soszynski's chin.

Though he's now down at light-heavyweight in the UFC, Soszynski is highly experienced and can take a punch and Rothwell stopped him with strikes on two different occasions.

Rothwell shows good hand speed here, especially for a huge heavyweight, and is quick to pounce after the stunning combo.

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Rothwell gets excellent leverage in the clinch with the Thai plum grip due to his height and strength.

To end Soszynski's evening, he knifes a hard knee up the middle, then backs up and pieces together a sweet combo: his bread and butter left hook, a short uppercut, and two massive Grizzly Bear swipes with his right.

I love the poise Ben shows when he circles off the ropes and resets. Even though he's going for the kill here -- it's a distance and style tailored for Mark Hunt's counters.

His impulse to pounce is evident again after he floors Soszynski, cascading six consecutive right hands to elicit the stoppage.

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It must be at least mildly upsetting to notice the leviathan bouncing kicks and punches off your head while you're trapped in the corner is also giggling absentmindedly whenever you happen to sneak a counter shot in.

Rothwell seems maniacally overjoyed as he blasts Roy Nelson with a crisp series, cracking afterward with a high kick for good measure.

Even though he laughs them off, the few punches "Big Country" does get in further convince me that Rothwell should make grounding the fight a must against Hunt.

Below, Rothwell shows his diversity standing, blazing with punches, easily catching the sprawl and countering with a knee before chambering a nasty high kick.

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Rothwell's ability to drag Hunt down without taking damage will govern the momentum swings in this match up.

He'll have to bait Hunt into committing while steering him back toward the cage or use his quickness with doubles in open space.

When Hunt isn't caught off guard and has his balance, he's pretty strong in the clinch. Rothwell's height is a bonus for his striking in tie-ups but might work against him takedown-wise.

Hunt's low center of gravity, footwork and toughness make him a load to wrest off his feet in the clinch. This is especially true when he can lean back into the fence and bury his hips low and out of reach.

Rothwell is extremely agile for such a large athlete, so it seems that using his quickness to distract with strikes and spring for low singles and doubles in the center of the cage. Of course, that's where Hunt's unfriendly uppercut, accuracy and timing come into play.

Big Ben is a substantial favorite on the betting lines. He moves well and, though outclassed on the feet and returning from an ACL surgery, definitely has the further rounded game. He's also settled in with Duke Roufus at Roufusport and polishes his wrestling with Ben Askren.

I was torn on this fight initially because of the uncertainty of Rothwell's knee and his dire need for mobility to win, but Rothwell's overall diversity and elite training camp sway me in his direction.

My Prediction: Ben Rothwell by submission

 

 

Hunt vs. Tuchscherer gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

All Rothwell gifs via Caposa

 

 

 


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