Josh-Barnett-640x360UFC on Fox 18’s co-main event is a heavyweight matchup between former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett and “Big Ben” Rothwell. Barnett recently returned to the Octagon after a lengthy layoff to earn a dominant decision victory over Roy Nelson, while Rothwell is on an impressive three fight winning streak.   Josh Barnett (34-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC, -135 favorite) Barnett has been a welcome addition to the UFC’s heavyweight division since he returned to the promotion in 2013. His return was a bit of a surprise, as he left the UFC in 2002 after being stripped of the heavyweight title because he tested positive for banned substances. Since his return in August of 2013, Barnett has racked up dominant wins over Frank Mir and Roy Nelson, while his sole loss came to top contender Travis Browne. “The Warmaster” is looking to make one last run at the UFC Heavyweight Title before he calls it a career. The 37-year old is a catch wresting and grappling expert who owns 20 submission victories out of his 33 career wins. His ground game is not like a typical jiu jitsu player, he relies much more on brute force and power. He often refers to catch wrestling as “the more violent art”, whereas jiu jitsu is more about technique and precision. Josh’s submission game is deadly and he can submit his opponent from just about any position. He recently submitted grappling legend Dean Lister by a scarf hold/neck crank, which is quite an accomplishment because Lister had not been submitted in many years. Barnett will attack his opponent’s arms, legs, feet, and neck. His submissions usually come from top position, as his bottom game is not nearly as good at his top game. Additionally, he is an adept guard passer that has one of the best full mounts in the sport. On the feet Barnett has a serviceable standup game, but he mostly looks to close the distance, clinch, and get a takedown. His takedowns are not the traditional double and single-leg takedowns that you see American wrestlers hit in open space. He relies on trips and throws from the clinch and double-legs when he has his opponent pressed up against the fence. An underrated aspect of Barnett’s game is his dirty boxing in the clinch. He has vicious knees, elbows, and punches in the clinch, which he showcased in his fights against Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. Josh also has above-average conditioning for a heavyweight, which may be factor in this fight.   Ben Rothwell (35-9 MMA, 5-3 UFC, +115 underdog) While he has not exactly been the most active fighter in recent years, “Big Ben” Rothwell finds himself in an enviable position in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Not many people expected Rothwell to be a top contender in the heavyweight division in 2016 because he had been up and down throughout much of his career and had not been able to secure victories in fights that really mattered. That took a turn for the better starting with his knockout win over Brendan Schaub, which started his current run where he has won four out of five. Wins over former Strikeforce Champion Alistair Overeem and fringe contender Matt Mitrione have been Rothwell’s signature wins during his current streak. A win over Barnett could line up Rothwell for a shot at the heavyweight title somewhere down the line. The 44 fight veteran has finished 32 of his 35 wins, including 20 by knockout. The 34-year old is a well-rounded fighter that is known for his knockout power and durability. On the feet the Wisconsin native uses unorthodox footwork to set up his attacks. While he is unorthodox, Rothwell is nevertheless an effective striker. His left hook, straight right, and right uppercut are excellent strikes and he throws them from multiple angles. Rothwell is also a crafty fighter in the clinch, as he utilizes exceptional dirty boxing and knees. “Big Ben” is not as good defensively, however, as he is quite hittable and does not possess good head movement or speed. Rothwell is not known for his grappling, but he is actually underrated in that realm. He is very submission savvy, especially with his chokes. Rothwell’s ability to finish fights in multiple ways makes him a very dangerous out for any opponent. The areas where the Wisconsinite have struggled the most are with his wrestling and conditioning. His takedown defense is not very strong, as he can be placed on his back by even mediocre wrestlers. Further, he tends to tire after the first round, though he has shown improvements in that area in recent fights.   Thoughts This is a logical fight for both men. Barnett looked really good in his last fight, both from a performance and a physical perspective. He will likely need to come into this fight in similar shape in order to replicate that performance. Like Barnett’s last opponent, Ben Rothwell is very durable and will not go away easily. Rothwell is also very dangerous, so Barnett will have to be very careful in every striking exchange. However, I think Barnett’s pace and superior grappling, clinch fighting, and tenacity will be able to carry him to a decision victory. He might have to survive a scary spot or two, but he should be able to get his hand raised on Saturday night.   The Prediction: Josh Barnett defeats Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision.


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