UFC Washington: Ben Rothwell vs. Stefan Struve Battle for Relevance

Stefan Struve UFC
Stefan Struve (right) vs. Big Nog Credit: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com

Ben Rothwell and Stefan Struve are long-tenured veterans of the UFC’s heaviest division battling to retain their relevance.

Not so long ago both, Stefan Struve and Ben Rothwell were rising forces in the heavyweight division. Rothwell was on a 4-fight winning streak which included victories over the likes of Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. His personality was beginning to bloom. He was quickly becoming a fan favorite. Struve showed signs of finally finding himself also, by securing a two-fight win streak of his own. But how things have changed for these longtime heavyweights ahead of UFC on ESPN 7.

Things took a massive nosedive for both athletes somewhere around 2016-17. Rothwell’s stunning run through the heavyweight division came to a screeching halt at the hands of former champion Junior Dos Santos. He even tested positive in a USADA test, thus forcing him to sit out a couple of years. He returned to competition early this year and since then has suffered two consecutive losses. As a result, ‘Big Ben’ is now on a career-low three-fight losing streak.

Stefan Struve did have a decent 2016, picking up two victories that year. It’s nearly everything after that has been going wrong for the Dutch titan. He was scheduled to face former champion Junior Dos Santos in what most expected to be a title eliminator, but suffered an injury and was forced to pull out of the match. After that fell through, Struve hit the worst skid of his career, suffering three consecutive losses. He finally bounced back earlier this year by securing a win over Marcos Rogério de Lima.

It is very clear that Ben Rothwell and Stefan Struve are two fighters who are on the verge of oblivion, in terms of being contenders. While Struve may have won his last fight, the memory of his losing streak is still pretty fresh. He’s still in his prime in an aged heavyweight division, but has a lot of mileage. Rothwell’s fall, meanwhile, has been something that hasn’t been largely discussed in the public space, and that’s not a good thing. The once ferocious contender has almost become an afterthought.

Both men need a win over a known face in order to boost their record, and UFC Washington gives them that chance. It’s smart match-making in that sense at least. Together Rothwell and Struve have enough name value to capture the attention of fans, thus making this fight even more important. They’ll be in the spotlight, with a presumably large audience watching on ESPN this Saturday. The winner earns a ticket back to relevance, for the loser, this could be the beginning of the end.