“Bones” Jon Jones (15-1) will return to the Octagon on Saturday to finally finish the business between him and former training partner “Suga” Rashad Evans (17-1-1) as UFC 145 hits the scene from Atlanta, Georgia. “Ares” Rory MacDonald (12-1) will face “Beautiful” Che Mills (14-4) in the co-main for the card and Canadian submission specialist Mark Bocek (10-4) draws opening duties against “The Natural” John Alessio (34-14). Former WEC champ “Angel” Miguel Torres (40-4) will take on “Mayday” Michael McDonald (14-1) and “The Machine” Mark Hominick (20-10) will offer “The Filipino Phenom” Eddie Yagin (15-5) his second chance to shine in the UFC. Leading into the night’s featured entertainment is a heavyweight affair between TUF stand-out “The Hybrid” Brendan Schaub (8-2) and former top IFL heavyweight “Big” Ben Rothwell (31-8). Both men are coming off of disappointing losses in their most recent outings and desperately need a victory to find their identity in the UFC’s ever deepening heavyweight division.
At First Glance: This match is important for each man in very different ways. For the TUF Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub, it’s a matter of establishing an identity as an elite heavyweight. His job has essentially been to take out the heavyweight division’s trash since he lost the finale and when he finally got his break against a current top heavyweight, he got knocked silly in just over three minutes. That brings things to Ben Rothwell. “Big” Ben has been nothing if not totally unimpressive in his 1-2 UFC career and is now squarely in the “trash being taken out” category. This is not an insult to his talent as a fighter overall, but realistically, his contract will likely be thrown to the wayside for lesser organizations to collect if he fails against Schaub. Both men have to win. If Ben loses, his job in the UFC is probably gone, if Brendan loses, his job is just as fatally set in stone as the UFC’s “Thank You, Come Again” sign at the exit to the heavyweight division.
In Depth: Despite the somewhat disappointing level of quality in Schaub’s UFC victims, the fact remains that he has an impressive grasp of solid basic striking and has the footwork and athleticism to make him a nightmare for the stereotypical flat-footed, homerun-swinging heavyweight striker. The argument can be made that his abilities are vastly overhyped considering the caliber of his opponents faced, but none of that changes the fact that he moves well and has the stamina to pot shot his way to a TKO in any round against any opponent who lacks the skill or the speed to deal with his outside striking game. Ben Rothwell is in the exact opposite position. He is a slower moving, power-based heavyweight and his image with UFC fans has been somewhat tarnished by the fact that his first bout was a one-sided drumming…from a future undefeated heavyweight champ. He then went on to dominate “The Hurricane” Gilbert Yvel (38-16) in a three-round decision. Where Rothwell comes out ahead is in the fact that he is very good at forcing his opponents into the clinch where his size and power are emphasized and his generally poor speed and stamina are less of an issue. This makes his match against Schaub very academic. Either Schaub will stay outside and wear out the IFL veteran before beating his exhausted body into submission, or Rothwell will lay hands on the TUF alum, shove him into the fence and beat him to a pulp.
Wild Card: The ground game is a fun bag of tricks in this pairing. Each man is respected for his abilities on the mat, but neither has a truly credible submission victory. Schaub has none at all and Rothwell’s are all via strikes save for a pair of basic arm chokes and a single Kimura. Added to the skepticism surrounding their grappling brought on by any careful analysis is the fact that neither has done anything even remotely impressive on the mat in the UFC. Rothwell was out-wrestled by “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt (8-7), a K-1 kickboxer with rudimentary ground work at best, and Schaub hasn’t even entertained the idea of a takedown since The Ultimate Fighter. If this fight goes to the mat, technical analysis goes out the window as neither man’s ability to grapple has been proven at the UFC level.
The Verdict: Schaub is an expert at picking apart slow, heavy, flat-footed fighters. Ben Rothwell is a slow, heavy, flat-footed fighter. The outcome is relatively predictable. While Schaub doesn’t really have the kind of brutal one-shot power needed to knock out an iron horse like Rothwell, he does have the stamina to outwork him and make him look terrible by the mid-point of the fight. Schaub via Unanimous Decision