This weekend, UFC 145 heads to Atlanta, and one of the fights on the main card is a heavyweight battle between Ben Rothwell and Brendan Schaub. Neither guy is in the title picture as of yet, but both are in need of a win if they are going to keep climbing in the Heavyweight division. Both are coming off losses in their last outings, and both guys could use a stand out performance in this bout. The lines at the sportsbooks have Schaub as the favorite at -255 with the comeback for Rothwell sitting at around +195. But I’m gonna go with Rothwell on this one, but I must admit I hope Rothwell doesn’t let me down, again.
Rothwell started out on the circuit of fights in the midwest, and if there is one thing you cannot teach is SIZE, and Rothwell is a massive heavyweight. When Rothwell was age 20, I traveled with his then coach Dave Strasser and Ben to St Petersburg, Russia for what was his first big fight against veteran slugger Ibragim Magomedov. He had already been to a SuperBrawl tournament in Hawaii, and he had some of the more experienced Heavyweights of the time on his resume.
Rothwell used his size to keep Magomedov off balance and off his feet. Magomedov, a very tough character, got in some shots and likely was winning the fight on the hometown cards, but Rothwell was in the fight and he had a shot at winning it. After the first 10 minute round, the promoter (Vadim Finkelstein, later to come to prominence in MMA as the manager of Fedor Emilianenko) asked for a final 5 minute deciding round.
Instead Rothwell did not come out for the round, losing by ‘retirement’. I remember his coach berating him, telling him ‘losing is OK, but quitting stays with you forever’.
Rothwell was always talented, and he got by and was a little bit lazy, at times like against Magomedov, he did not want to do the hard work. This is a bad tendency, and when a fighter has met him head on and gotten in his face, he has tended to back off (see Dan Christison and others).
But at 30, Rothwell is hopefully ready to put these tendencies aside and put it together, and Schaub is the perfect opponent. I have never been impressed with Schaub, and I think he is learning on the job at the highest level, which is a tall order. Rothwell has four times the fights that Schaub has.
If Rothwell has not learned by now, this should be his last fight in the UFC. Go Ben!