Facing a light heavyweight moving up to heavyweight, Rothwell still had his hands full over three rounds as the former University of Tennessee football standout more than held his own over 15 minutes.
The difference was Rothwell’s ability to press forward, trap Saint Preux against the cage and outmuscle him with punches and knees on the inside. Rothwell repeatedly forced Saint Preux to walk backwards before battering him with uppercuts or grabbing onto the Muay Thai clinch and unloading a series of knees.
“I landed some really good knees from the clinch, bloodied him up,” Rothwell said about his performance. “He’s a heavyweight let’s be honest. I’m the one who had a lot to lose in here.”
While he had the power and size advantage, Rothwell still had to stave off a valiant effort from Saint Preux, who actually dropped him with a short counter left hand at the end of the second round. Saint Preux tagged Rothwell with a few stiff shots throughout the fight but he just couldn’t quite put together a combination that truly rattled the Wisconsin native.
When the final horn sounded, Rothwell and Saint Preux were still winging punches at each other in an effort to sway the judges. The scores came back with a pair of 29-28 scores for Rothwell while the third official gave it 29-28 to Saint Preux.
Still it was enough for Rothwell to get the nod as he earns his seconds straight win in a row and now he’s seeking a heavyweight submission specialist for his next fight.
“In all due respect, Mr. Oleinik. You beat [Fabricio] Werdum,” Rothwell said when addressing Russian heavyweight Aleksei Oleinik, who just got a win at UFC 249. “You asked for a big fight. They call me “Big Ben.”