Before the amazing matchups that make up the main and co-main event of UFC on ESPN 17, we see two heavyweights take the cage. On one side, long time UFC veteran Ben Rothwell (38-12). Coming off of a TKO win over Stefan Struve, and a recent decision victory over fellow veteran; Ovince St. Preux. Across the cage, we have Marcin Tybura (19-6), who is also coming off of two consecutive victories. Both by decision; over Sergey Spivak, and Maxim Grishin. Strap in, as the breakdown begins!
Born in Uniejow, Poland, Marcin is 34 years old and a professional fighter since 2011. Tybura is a previous M-1 Grand Prix, and Global Heavyweight Champion. He signed with the UFC in January, of 2016. Since then it’s been a rocky road, and he’s struggled to gain momentum. Marcin has gone 6-5 in the UFC. With notable losses to names such as; Derrick Lewis via TKO, and Fabricio Werdum via decision. Now that he’s on a two-fight win streak, facing a big name like Ben Rothwell; this could be Marcin Tybura’s chance to start a big run towards possible title contention one day.
To be fair; we do have to say that Marcin didn’t get much of a “grace period” upon joining the UFC. He lost his debut via decision to Timothy Johnson. Where after, Tybura would bounce back accumulating two wins via KO/TKO. This is where the competition he was facing takes an abrupt rise. Next, Marcin would be paired with former champion, and long time veteran; Andrei Arlovski. Whom Tybura would defeat via decision.
Tybura’s “Rocky Road”, the 1-4 stretch
With the decision win under his belt, the UFC had Marcin Tybura ranked #8 coming into his fight with the then #2 heavyweight contender in the world; Fabricio Werdum. Obviously, the UFC was trying to fast track their young contender and get him a couple wins over some aged veterans. First, it was Arlovski. Next, Werdum. However, like Kobe in the 4th, Fabricio Werdum came out on fire. Burning away Dana’s hopes for a new title challenger.
Despite the age discrepancy, Werdum literally looked like the younger man out there. Not only was he stalking Tybura down and out landing him, but Fabricio also seemed too fast for Marcin. Werdum utilized his Muay Thai to land some great knees in the clinch, as well as his kicks to keep Tybura from advancing. The teep was there all night for Werdum, as well as his cross. Set up with beautiful jabs; Werdum was able to land the cross. Which would then open up his chances to grab for the Thai clinch and land knees to the head.
Fabricio Werdum would go on to win that fight via unanimous decision, with two judges giving every round to him. Next, the UFC would do Marcin no favors in matching him up against famed powerhouse “The Black Beast” himself; Derrick Lewis.
In round one, Lewis almost put Tybura away. Dropping him, and landing some good ground and pound. Marcin would stay alive, and make a small come back in round two. Tybura would land a great trip, and control Lewis on the ground for most of the round. At times landing ground and pound in side control, and full mount. In round three, Tybura’s game plan was obviously to try and land another takedown, or just control Derrick up against the cage until one presented itself. Which, as we saw, didn’t end well for our young prospect.
The 1, out of 1-4
At UFC Fight Night 134, in Hamburg, Germany, Marcin Tybura would reset the streak. Taking on Stefan Struve, Tybura would put on a dominant grappling display. Largely controlling big sections of all three rounds on the floor. In a win that he needed the most, Marcin was victorious that night. However, his journey was still early, and he had no idea at what fate would have in store for him.
More losses, and then resurgence
At 3 minutes and 15 seconds of round 2, Shamil Abdurakhimov would finish Marcin Tybur by TKO via punches in his next fight out. Following, Tybur would take on Augusto Sakai; and get absolutely starched in round 1.
Suddenly, Tybura was right back in the losers column with 2 consecutive losses by KO/TKO. Digging deep, he’d come back and win his next two matchups. Over Sergey Spivak, and a late replacement opponent making his debut; named Maxim Grishin.
Ben Rothwell, is an American born MMA fighter coming out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The man is definitely a unique personality. Who can forget the time he tried to do the classic “evil maniac laugh” before one of his post-fight interviews was over. After a solid 10 seconds of evil maniac laughter, he awkwardly sat there for a few more questions. It was extremely hilarious. Although it was probably embarrassing for Rothwell (as the laugh was no doubt supposed to be his cue for the interview to be over), it endeared him to the fans.
So, what’s Rothwell’s story? Well, the man-made his debut against Cain Velasquez at UFC 104, on October 24th, 2009. Ben Rothwell would lose by TKO one minute into round 2, although the stoppage was controversial. Rothwell seemed to be getting to his feet when referee Steve Mazzagati stopped the fight. Ben immediately protested the stoppage, and even Dana White said that Mazzagati was: “The worst referee in combat sports,” after the controversial call.
After this controversial call, Rothwell would go on to alternate wins and losses. He would tear his ACL going for a takedown against Gilbert Yvel in his next fight, and also suffered a deviated septum from a head kick. Ben would go on to win the fight via unanimous decision. Next, after his injuries healed, came a fight with KO machine: Mark Hunt. Ben Rothwell would weather the storm and lose via decision.
Ups and Downs
Next, against Brendan Schaub, Rothwell would put on a dominant performance and get the TKO after getting hurt early. Many wondered as to why the ruling was judged a “TKO” when Brendan was so obviously out cold, but nonetheless, the ruling would stand. Rothwell would be awarded “Knockout of the Night” for his performance. He would then go on to face Gabriel Gonzaga, where he would lose in round 2 by guillotine.
This is where Ben Rothwell comes back with a TKO over Brandon Vera, sparking the biggest run of his career. After dispatching of Vera in round 3, Rothwell would add victories over three legends to his resume. With a TKO over perennial contender Alistair Overeem, and two back to back guillotine’s over Matt Mitrione and Josh Barnett; Rothwell was a man on fire.
With his win over Barnett, Rothwell became the first man to finish the former champion by sub. Sadly, next would come the greatest losing streak in Ben’s career. He would go on to lose three consecutive fights, all by decision. Junior dos Santos would best him in Croatia, then it would be Blagoy Ivanov in Kansas. Finally, Andrei Arlovski would get the better of him in Texas. Just when it seemed Rothwell was traveling the world; collecting losses, Ben would finally end the streak against Struve in Washington D.C.
Keys to victory, and my prediction!
Keys to victory: Marcin Tybura
For Marcin Tybura, his best success seems to come when he can utilize his grappling to wear on his opponents. This will be a major key for him, I believe. If he can wear on Rothwell and tire him out, Marcin could land one of his head kicks and score a KO. Tybura has fierce kicks. I’d say another key to victory will be to stay versatile and utilize his kicks to the best he can.
Keys to victory: Ben Rothwell
For Big Ben, I’d say his #1 key to victory, is controlling the fight. In fact, one takeaway I’ve noticed from watching film on Tybura is that he struggles when forced to fight at an opponent’s pace. The Werdum fight is a key example of this, where Werdum essentially controlled the pace of the match and strolled on to win by decision.
If Rothwell can be the one to initiate the grappling, and striking, I’d say he will see the difference in success as opposed to being the man to counter. You don’t want Marcin to get in rhythm, and begin to search for those deadly kicks he throws. My second key to victory will have to be going for that guillotine. Rothwell has shown in the past he has a tremendous guillotine, and as Tybura often goes for the takedown when things aren’t going his way on the feet; I’d say Big Ben has a good to a great chance of catching the more inexperienced Tybura in this submission.
As this is a heavyweight fight, I’ll once again reiterate; it could easily go either way. I’m gonna have to go with experience on this one, as it plays such a huge role in these higher weight classes. I’ve got Big Ben, let’s say either first-round TKO or decision.
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