Heavyweight action on the UFC Wichita main card on Saturday had Ben Rothwell and Blagoy Ivanov slugging it out across a full, bloody three rounds.
‘Big’ Ben Rothwell’s absence from the UFC over the past couple of years has been well covered. His demeanor during fight week leading into UFC Wichita was nothing if not intense. Facing former WSOF champion Blagoy Ivanov, Rothwell had stated that he planned to do his talking in the cage. Yet there was little doubt a two-year ban by USADA had irritated him.
As for Ivanov, he recognized Rothwell as one of the toughest fighters in the heavyweight division.
Bulgaria’s Ivanov circled early, constantly moving as the fight got underway. Rothwell patiently followed, and was able to trip Ivanov up with a leg kick. Ivanov went to the body. Rothwell fired off a high kick, and later a straight left. A left hook then connected for Rothwell, wobbling Ivanov just for a moment. However, the Bulgarian returned fire, going body-head with a combination.
They’d battle it out for the round, a flurry of strikes closing out the frame. In the second, Ivanov was again circling, leading with his right hand. The right would land as the round progressed, but Rothwell connected with a left of his own. Then a high kick, that didn’t quite land clean. Ivanov land again, catching ‘Big’ Ben. And followed that by attacking the body. It was still a fairly back-and-forth affair, and Rothwell turned it up around the ninety second mark, which led to the pair trading some heavy blows. Both men connected clean. Rothwell was bloodied, but still he walked forward.
Ivanov’s eye had begun to swell from Rothwell’s latest attack. The pair traded kicks, while Ivanov was going over the top with his strikes, often hooks, in contrast to Rothwell’s straight punches. Perhaps the biggest surprise was that they survived to see a third round.
Ben Rothwell continued to walk his opponent down to start the third round. However, ninety seconds in, an eye poke briefly paused the action. Ivanov wasn’t looking for much recovery time, but a low blow by Rothwell followed. Again, Ivanov chose to continue without taking any time, as ref Herb Dean asked if the heavyweight was okay. Rothwell fired a front kick, but Ivanov as still finding some success, until Rothwell landed a number of left hands. Ivanov was forced to retreat.
The pair would turn it up in the final twenty seconds, trading, Rothwell landing a head kick. That both we still standing at the end of the fight was a moral victory for each. Yet it was Ivanov raining on the parade of the returning Rothwell, earning a unanimous decision.
Blagoy Ivanov def. Ben Rothwell by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)