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‘They think the heavyweights suck’ - Ben Rothwell on UFC LHWs moving up a division

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‘Big’ Ben Rothwell was supposed to take on Gian Villante, now he’s facing OSP May 13th. And he’s got a theory as to just why these former light heavyweights have decided to try moving up to 265 lbs.

UFC Fight Night: Overeem v Rozenstruik Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Even by his own admission, Ben Rothwell doesn’t necessarily seem to feel that the heavyweight division is one of incredibly deep technical game-planning.

“A lot of the heavyweights, it’s the old rule of, ‘First heavyweight to get a takedown wins the fight’ — that was the old saying back in early 2000. I don’t know if much has changed,” Rothwell admitted to MMA Fighting’s A-Side live chat in a recent interview.

To hear him tell it, for faster, smaller athletes who are still on the larger end of the light heavyweight division, that may be the kind of picture they’re looking at when they decide to move up to fight guys like ‘Big’ Ben, floating around the upper end of the heavyweight limit. Well, that and a desire to get away from Jon Jones’ dominant title run.

Rothwell was scheduled to take on longtime light heavyweight action fighter Gian Villante on the originally planned April 18th UFC 249 fight card. With that event’s cancellation and re-scheduling, he’s now set to take on former interim LHW title challenger Ovince St. Preux on May 13th in Jacksonville.

“I already went through that with [Villante],” Rothwell said of his feelings on LHWs coming up to challenge him. “So I already went through all those emotions about these guys are moving up to heavyweight. They think the heavyweights suck. Jon Jones is beating everybody, they’re running from him. I kind of got over it.”

Rothwell feels that fighters like Cormier and Couture laid the groundwork for how smaller athletes could make serious waves in both divisions. But there’s also a level of power among the big men that fighters looking to dip their toes in the heavyweight pool may not be accounting for.

“Look at what Randy Couture did. He was really good at getting his takedowns, he’d wear guys down, he could beat the bigger guy, and I think some of that stands true. But you’ve got guys you’ve got to be careful with at heavyweight. There’s always the power factor. I think all the heavyweights down the board bring a danger factor that doesn’t exist in any other weight class.”

The Wisconsin-born fighter is fresh off a December TKO victory over Stefan Struve, a win that broke a three fight losing streak – intermingled with a two-year USADA suspension – stretching all the way back to 2016.

For Ovince St. Preux, his submission win over Michal Oleksiejczuk in September of 2019 snapped a two fight losing streak to Nikita Krylov and Dominick Reyes. His fight with Rothwell on May 13th in Jacksonville, FL, will be his first bout outside the 205 lb weight class going all the way back to his amateur career.