Following a rough outing against Alistair Overeem last December, former UFC heavyweight titleholder Junior Dos Santos was back in championship form Sunday, as he won a five-round unanimous decision victory over Ben Rothwell in the main event of UFC Fight Night at Arena Zagreb in Croatia.
“I think we did the right strategy,” Dos Santos said. “You can’t go against a guy that size, he’s too big. So I used my footwork to move a lot and throw some hard punches at him and use my boxing. Forget about Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling; I’m a boxing guy.”
Scores were 50-45 across the board for the number five-ranked Dos Santos, now 18-4. The number four-ranked Rothwell, who saw a four-fight losing streak snapped, falls to 36-10.
More from Fight Night Zagreb: Full results | Dos Santos dominant in main event victory | Lewis, Ngannou get TKO wins in Zagreb | Cummings wins; Perez, Taisumov, Stasiak get 1st Round victories | Cannonier with big TKO; Martins, Velickovic win decisions | Backstage interviews: Maribek Taisumov | Octagon interviews: Junior Dos Santos, Derrick Lewis
Rothwell’s unorthodox stance and movement kept Dos Santos off balance in the early going, but eventually, hard straight shots to the head and body from “Cigano” began to score. Rothwell took the punches well, and when he got close to the Brazilian, he fired off responses in combination, with his right hand being particularly effective. But by the end of the round, Dos Santos’ body shots were landing with more frequency.
The body shots kept coming in round two, but they weren’t slowing Rothwell down, as the Wisconsin native marched forward, landing kicks along the way. Dos Santos was the busier and more effective striker though, with the proof being the marked-up face of Rothwell. Just before the end of the round, a right hand drilled Rothwell, with a follow-up kick to the body sending him down, punctuating a big frame for Dos Santos.
The fireworks were at a minimum in rounds three and four as Dos Santos coolly extended his lead with a patient stick and move strategy that kept Rothwell at bay.
Knowing he needed a finish to pull out the win, Wisconsin’s Rothwell gamely moved forward to begin round five, trying to land with the shots that would turn the fight around. Dos Santos wouldn’t stray from his game plan though, and his movement and accurate striking wouldn’t allow Rothwell to get those shots, making the final reading of the scorecards a mere formality at the end of 25 minutes.