After an unsuccessful run in the light heavyweight division Brandon Vera (12-6 MMA, 8-6 UFC) makes his return to the heavyweight division at UFC 164 in Milwaukee as he looks to reinvent himself after his knockout loss to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. His opponent is none other than “Big” Ben Rothwell (32-9 MMA, 2-3 UFC), who has alternated between wins and losses in the heavyweight division, has most notably knocking out Brendan Schaub earning knockout of the night honors.
After going 4-4 at light heavyweight, not having his hand raised since 2009, Vera is looking to return to the winning column with a win over Rothwell. Suffering losses to prolific fighters in champion Jon Jones, former champions Randy Couture and “Shogun” Rua, and top contender Thiago Silva, Vera is no stranger to high level competition, although he has come up short against the majority of his top 10 opponents. Vera is a stand up specialist who was very competitive in striking with renowned stand up fighters “Shogun” and T. Silva, but his take down defense has proven to be lacking in a majority of his losses. Vera’s most notable win happened to take place in the heavyweight division when he knocked out former interim champion Frank Mir. The move up to heavyweight after his inconsistent stint at light heavyweight is a bit of a surprising move, but Rothwell is a perfect opponent to gauge the abilities of Vera and if he still has what it takes to fight in the UFC.
Rothwell isn’t the most technical fighter, but it is his power that has helped him with his success in the UFC knocked out 18 of his opponents. His losses have usually been against fighters that are superior on a technical stand point, having been out struck by Mark Hunt, out wrestled by Cain Velasquez, and submitted by Gabriel Gonzaga – all of which whom are standouts in their respective martial arts. Rothwell is a gritty, in your face type of fighter who has beaten fighters such as Gilbert Yvel and Brendan Schaub by out working his opponents rather than being a superior striker, grappler, or submission expert. In this fight, Rothwell should look to use his size advantage over Vera to work him against the cage much like Couture did and possibly drag the fight to the ground. With both fighters in this match up possibly facing the proverbial chopping block, look for both fighters to come out the gate aggressively.
Prediction: Ben Rothwell def. Brandon Vera by TKO in round 2.
While Vera has his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is a high level Muay-Thai specialist making him more of a technical fighter than Rothwell, both the size and Rothwell’s ability to drag fighters into his type of fight will make it hard for Vera to find his range and utilize his superior technical skills. Rothwell will use his size to out-work Vera against the cage and dirty box him, eventually dragging him to the ground and finishing him off in his guard with elbows and punches. Jon Jones and Randy Couture did a good job laying out the blue print on how to neutralize the striking of Vera, and Rothwell has the skills to mimic the strategies used by those two.