NEWARK, N.J. – Ben Rothwell took a big step toward the UFC heavyweight championship he’s vowed to soon hold.
The Wisconsin native defeated Josh Barnett via submission at 3:48 of the second round in the co-main event at UFC on Fox 18 on Saturday night at the Prudential Center, extending his winning streak to four, all by finish.
“Josh Barnett just made me a better fighter than I ever could be,” Rothwell said in his post-fight interview. “I want to win the title, I want to defend it, but this will still be one of the greatest victories of my career. I respect him that much.”
Early in the first, Rothwell was the aggressor, but he didn’t provide much with just a few jabs and feeler punches connecting. After a few minutes of circling, Rothwell finally was able to put a combo together, only to be answered by increased output from Barnett that bloodied Rothwell’s face. Rothwell continued to push forward, but Barnett was able to equal his output throughout the round.
Barnett, a former UFC heavyweight champion, tried to open things up with a few kicks at the start of the second round, but eventually took Rothwell into the cage after a short exchange in the clinch. After the break, neither fighter seemed interested in getting caught and struggled to pick their shots. Barnett’s punches continued to cause superficial damage, but failed to rock Rothwell.
“The only impression of the result is he got the finish, Barnett said. “Ben is a hell of a fighter who is on the rise and he’s already done great things. As far as for me taking a positive from this, it’s too close to the wire to take one. Anytime you put minutes into your craft there’s always places to improve and that’s what I’m going to do.”
With just under 2 minutes left in the round, Rothwell finally started connecting, but Barnett turned to his wrestling base and went for the takedown. Rothwell was able to stuff it, turning Barnett onto his back while looking for a choke. As Barnett scrambled, Rothwell held the grip on a guillotine choke (he later called it a “go-go choke” in honor of one of his jiu-jitsu coaches.
The chokehold forced Barnett to tap for the first time in his career and put Rothwell in line for a big fight at the top of the heavyweight division.