This weekend the UFC heads to Newark, New Jersey for UFC on FOX 18. The event is headlined by a light heavyweight title eliminator bout between Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson and Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader.
A fight that has been slipping somewhat under the radar however, is the co-main event. A three-round heavyweight bout scheduled between number seven ranked Ben Rothwell, and number eight, Josh Barnett.
Why is a bout between two top 10 ranked heavyweights slipping everyone’s minds?
The fallout from the upcoming February 6, UFC 196 which is now labeled a UFC Fight Night, has made many forget about the heavyweight bout with serious implications.
Yes, both champion Fabricio Werdum, and challenger, Cain Velasquez, fell out of the main event of the card, but that does not mean Barnett and Rothwell should be overlooked.
Velasquez is the number one ranked contender but has had serious issues with his health, having fought just once or twice per year and sometimes not even once in a calendar year, over the course of the past four to five years.
When Velasquez pulled out of UFC 196, Stipe Miocic stepped up. But that did newly announced main event did not last long. It was 24 hours at most before Werdum pulled out with injury.
Number three ranked Alistair Overeem is still in contract negotiations with the UFC and it is uncertain whether or not the Dutchman will be brought back on.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski was en route to a title shot before being taken out by Miocic in less than a minute earlier this month.
Junior Dos Santos comes in at number five. The former heavyweight champion suffered a TKO defeat to Overeem in December.
Travis Browne serves as the number six ranked heavyweight recently scoring a brutal win over Matt Mitrione.
So where does this put Barnett and Rothwell?
The winner of this crucial heavyweight bout could potentially see Browne or Arlovski in the near future, maybe even Dos Santos.
Barnett has a loss to Browne as Rothwell does to Arlovski. Both fighters would like the opportunity to avenge those losses.
Since coming to the UFC since Strikeforce, Barnett has 2 wins a loss, that loss being to Browne. He holds wins over former champion Frank Mir, and ‘Big Country’ Roy Nelson.
On the other hand, Rothwell, has fought eight times since coming to the UFC, winning five times. His only UFC losses were to Velasquez, Gabriel Gonzaga and Mark Hunt.
Between Barnett and Rothwell the two men have racked up 85 professional fights. If you combine all the fights that Werdum, Velasquez, Browne, and Dos Santos have had, Barnett and Rothwell still have more professional MMA experience, a fact which should not be ignored.
When Barnett and Rothwell step into the octagon on Saturday night fans are going to be in for a treat as two very technical fighters both on their feet and on the ground will stand toe-to-toe.
Without really knowing the future of how things will fall with injuries within the division, one of these men might even fight Miocic to determine who is next in line.
Tune in this Saturday night to see how things pan out in this crucial UFC heavyweight bout.