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Arlovski vs Rothwell 2

This may be one of the most overlooked fights on the UFC on ESPN 4 card. As a long time MMA fan who well remembers their first fight in 2008, I can genuinely say I’m excited for this heavyweight rematch. Rothwell was calling for this rematch years ago. During the time he desired the rematch, it made the most sense because both fighters were on solid win streaks. Arlovski, from September 2013 to September 2015 won 6 straight including a fight of the year candidate TKO win over Travis Browne. Rothwell, from August 2013 to January 2016, won 4 in a row with four finishes. Under current circumstances, Arlovski has lost 3 of his last 4 (1 no contest) and Rothwell has dropped 2 in a row. The match up again makes sense, just for different reasons. 

Arlovski vs. Rothwell face off photographed by UnknownMMA

In 2008 Andrei definitively got the best of Big Ben. Despite Rothwell’s notoriously great chin, Arlovski was able to put Ben away with a heavy overhand right followed by a well placed right uppercut. Arlovski had a huge speed advantage and utilized it well. While Ben struggled to find his timing and land significant strikes, Andrei had an easier time finding his mark. 10 years later odds makers have Rothwell as the favorite. My best guess as to why is because of Arlovski’s last 3 losses, including being 2-8-1 his last 11. People must figure age has caught up with him and the speed advantage won’t be the same. However, at 40 years of age Andrei is a 20 year veteran of MMA. His first professional fight was in 1999 and by 2001 he was fighting world class fighters like Ricco Rodriguez and Pedro RIzzo. Since 2001 Arlovski has faced nothing but the best in the world. You’d think at his age he’d want to slow down a little but that isn’t the case. He fought 3 times in 2016, 3 in 2017, 4 in 2018 and this weekend is his 2nd fight in 2019. That’s a vigilant man who mustn’t be taken lightly. 

Andrei Arlovski weigh in photographed by Unknown MMA.

Ben, for unfortunate reasons, has not been so active. Mainly due to his USADA suspension he’s only fought three times since 2016. The blessing is sometimes these two year layoffs give people time to train without having to worry about an actual fight. Depending how a person utilizes this time off, it can be a detriment or a benefit. Because Big Ben owns and runs an MMA gym with his wife, my guess is he stays plenty active (like Uriah Faber has at Team Alpha Male). Some coaches like to sit on the sidelines and give direction, some are much more hands on. My impression of Ben is he’s the type who would rather train with and show people how something is done, not just try to talk them through it. Despite losing his first fight off suspension, he didn’t look like a man who had stopped training at a high level. The man he lost to is no slouch, Blagoy Ivanov is 7-1 in his last 8 fights with his only loss being to Junior Dos Santos. 

Ben Rothwell weigh in photographed by UnknownMMA

What probably intrigues me most about this rematch is the background of both men and why they are fighters to begin with. As a kid Arlovski was bullied and got tired of it. His first solution was to lift weights and get bigger. A couple years into lifting weights he started training in Sambo, Judo and Kickboxing. Andrei excelled extremely fast, especially in Sambo. In 1999, the same year as his first professional MMA fight, he won the European Youth Sambo Championship and World Youth Championship. Andrei started training around age 16 and was winning competitions by age 20. It’s evident he was a world class fighter probably before he even realized it himself. 

Rothwell likely had it rougher than Arlovski as a child. Rothwell had to fight through spinal meningitis at 6 years old, which put him in a coma and caused him to be temporarily blind. This condition also caused him to become heavily overweight and feel extremely out of place with other kids. Fortunately, he learned at an early age (just before middle school) to use his anger to fuel a career in fighting. The true turning point of his young career was when he was in a bad car accident with his best friend at age 19. Unfortunately for Ben, he lost his friend in that car accident. However, what he did with that loss was he used it to fuel a career that has led him to owning his own gym and still fighting almost 20 years after his professional debut. 

Arlovski vs. Rothwell face off photographed by UnknownMMA

While it may be easy to focus on silly things like Rothwell’s infamously uncomfortable post fight speech with the evil laugh, I beg people to dig deeper into the actual person before judging them. A huge reason I love this rematch is I admire both men. Arlovski and Rothwell have admirable heart in life, not just MMA. I can’t recall anybody who has ever trained with or around them having anything negative to say. The more I look extensively into each man’s background, the more I admire them. I urge more MMA fans to take the same approach. Why not take some time to read about people like Andre Arlovski and Ben Rothwell? Learn about their struggles and achievements, they will add more to your life than silly shows filled with pointless drama. ■

Arlovski vs. Rothwell face off photographed by Unknown MMA

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