Longtime heavyweight contender Ben Rothwell had some questions to answer heading into his fight against Blagoy Ivanov on the main card of tonight’s (Sat., March 9, 2019) UFC on ESPN+ 4 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.
‘Big Ben’ had been out of action for almost three years, having last competed in a loss to Junior dos Santos at 2016’s UFC Croatia. Before that, he was a dark horse contender for a heavyweight title shot with four consecutive stoppage wins. Ivanov came off of his own loss to dos Santos at last year’s UFC Boise. It was only the second loss of his MMA career.
There wasn’t a huge queue of worthy contenders in the heavyweight division, so a knockout win may earn the victor quite a rise on the rankings.
The bout started with both fighters a bit tentative. Rothwell stalked Ivanov but didn’t land much early. He finally opened up with a strong low kick that buckled Ivanov a bit. The fighters found a rhythm towards the middle of the round, with Rothwell wobbling Ivanov a bit. Ivanov countered with a right hand of his own. He followed up with a body shot and a strike upstairs. “Big Ben” snapped a straight and a solid right as the first frame ended.
Ivanov was slightly more aggressive in the second round. Rothwell still pushed the action yet threw little. Ivanov capitalized with a few right hands as he stayed on his horse. Rothwell snapped a hook. Rothwell threw a high kick that only partially landed. Ivanov scored a hard punch and landed more. Rothwell countered and threw a body shot.
Action picked up and Rothwell landed a big left. They exchanged big shots and it was a firefight. Both men landed and ate several hard shots. Rothwell was bloodied. “Big Ben” rushed forward with several shots as a much more action-packed frame came to an end.
Rothwell came out stalking again in the third. Ivanov landed and stay just out of range of Rothwell’s shot. Ivanov landed a few more shots and Rothwell went for another head kick. An eye poke halted the action as the crowd booed. They traded again and Rothwell landed a low blow. Ivanov took no time and Rothwell gestured to let him kick him low. He didn’t and the fight continued. Rothwell snapped a huge right hand, perhaps his best shot of the fight. ivanov landed a left but may have been hurt.
Strikes came from Rothwell but Ivanov landed his own. They traded heavy punches and kicks in close. Rothwell scored with an uppercut. Ivanov kept it close with counters, scoring a straight. They jumped into the pocket and slugged it out. Rothwell landed a head kick and an elbow as the exciting fight came to an end.
Final Result: Blagoy Ivanov def. Ben Rothwell via unanimous decision (29-28 x 3)