IFL King to Debut Against UFC’s Best
Preview by Brady Crytzer
It’s size against speed in the co-main event of UFC 104: Machida vs. Shogun as rising heavyweight star Cain Velasquez battles former IFL chieftain and knockout puncher “Big” Ben Rothwell.
Standing 6’5 and tipping the scales at 260 lbs., Rothwell prepares to make his UFC debut against a man considered to be the future of the division. While Velasquez is riding high off of his June victory over Chieck Kongo, he faces the sternest test of his career against the consummate pro in Rothwell. With a shot at world heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar on the line, the newest superstar of the heavyweight division will be revealed on Saturday night. Let’s take a look at how these two heavy handed punchers match up.
Striking: When two heavyweights meet, regardless of wrestling pedigrees, the ability to land a devastating punch always takes center stage and, in some cases, is the most telling difference of the fight. Although this will mark his first appearance in the UFC Octagon, “Big” Ben has made a reputation for himself by being a big puncher with a big heart. Thoughout his days as the unbeaten darling of the IFL, Rothwell used his heavy hands to dispatch tough vets like Ricco Rodriguez and Kryztof Soszynski. On the contrary, we have seen a more well rounded attack feature Velasquez’s hands less due to strong wrestling and tenacious ground n’ pound. Make no mistake about it, Cain can bang and he will have a significant speed advantage over his much larger opponent.
It’s size vs. speed in this slugfest. Look for Velasquez to work inside of the 6’5 Rothwell and land quick, short punches. Don’t be surprised however if the youngster opts for the takedown after tasting “Big” Ben’s power during the exchange.
Grappling: Rothwell well, like many great strikers before him, has made a career out of utilizing his natural gifts while avoiding takedowns. In this case, the wrestling credentials of the NCAA standout Cain Velasquez will be the difference maker in the fight. While Rothwell has trained with a wrestling base out of Pat Miletich’s MFS Elite Squad, his new home in Duke Roufus’ Wisconsin camp will certainly improve his striking effectiveness. That being said, Rothwell only has a short window between exchanges to catch the young upstart because, as we saw against Chieck Kongo, Velasquez has no problem scooping a much larger man into the air and delivering him hard to the mat.
Velasquez can take this fight over with his pitbull-like approach to wrestling. Rothwell has shown good takedown defense in the past, but the high-octane cardio of Velasquez will break that defense down with ease in the later minutes of the fight.
How They Match Up: Ben Rothwell is a serious acquisition to the UFC’s heavyweight division. In the early days of his career “Big” Ben proved to be a reliable workhorse for the mid-western MMA circuit, but it was in the IFL that he truly shined as a premiere heavyweight.
With that being said, Rothwell will be in for a difficult task for his first UFC appearance.
We saw that Velasquez could fight at a high pace for three rounds against Kongo, and that same fearless fight will no doubt reappear in Los Angeles. Despite getting the ‘W’ in that fight, we also saw some serious chin problems as Kongo dropped Velasquez on a number of occasions with only straight punches.
Rothwell can stop this fight with one swing of his mighty paw, but look for Velasquez to put on a ground n’ pound clinic en route to a judges’ decision.