UFC Fight Night 68 June 6th, 2015 Heavyweight Matchup: Matt Mitrione vs Ben Rothwell By @fightnomics Before we see potentially the last cage appearance by Dan Henderson, two Heavyweights with five combined T/KO wins straight between them will clash in a fight with plenty of power, and perhaps surprising implications for the division. Matt Mitrione and Ben Rothwell have had very, very different paths to the Octagon, and yet here they are both theoretically just one or two wins from title contention. Whoever emerges victorious this weekend, especially if they do so impressively, could be paired with a top five opponent next time out. So despite the event not carrying much in the way of direct title implications, this matchup might be the most important fight of the night in the long run. And as with so many fights on this weekend’s card in New Orleans, the odds here are close. In fact, overall it’s the closest card of betting lines we’ve seen since the UFC on FX 3 card in 2012. The 13th ranked Mitrione is currently favored at -190 over the higher #9 ranked Rothwell, who is the underdog at +165. The market says the rankings are wrong, so let’s see what the numbers say. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape is a bit mixed. While Rothwell is actually younger than Mitrione, Rothwell’s 43 professional fights dating back to 2001 (while Mitrione was still playing college football) make Rothwell older in “fight-years.” Mitrione only has 12 professional fights, but all 12 came inside the UFC Octagon, meaning he has faced top talent and yet has not racked up the years of damage that is usually required to do so. Size also favors Mitrione, who will be the faster and more athletic man with a slight reach advantage. Another footnote is that Rothwell was formerly on Testosterone for therapeutic reasons, which has since been banned in the UFC even for medical exemptions. Generally, I rarely support a fighter coming off of TRT, because no matter how much guys like Vitor Belfort will claim they’ve never felt better, the reality of age and endocrinology is unforgiving. Striking Matchup: The standup matchup here is important, because Mitrione has managed to keep his fights standing for most of the time. That’s mainly because Mitrione has never even attempted a takedown in his entire career, and also because he has decent takedown defense. Regardless, Heavyweights like to stand and bang, and their power makes the standup critical to any matchup in this division. And at a glance, Mitrione gets the edge on mixed advantages. He’s the more powerful striker, and has much better strike avoidance than Rothwell. While Mitrione has been slightly outpaced by opponents, his overall rate of striking is higher than Rothwell’s. Rothwell gets the small edge in accuracy, but tends to let opponents hit him more often than he lands punches. While his chin has held up while in the UFC, he’s facing a striker who is very good at finding the right range and dropping opponents, so Rothwell shouldn’t rely on his beard to save him. Throughout the exchanges, Mitrione should be landing the cleaner strikes with longer range, and eventually that could take a toll even on a durable Heavyweight like Rothwell. Grappling Matchup: That leaves the ground game as a place where Rothwell could have the advantages. He has initiated takedowns frequently, although hasn’t had a great success rate. That will be the key positional battle here, matching Mitrione’s solid takedown defense against Rothwell’s repetitive albeit telegraphed takedowns. Should the fight end up on the ground, Rothwell definitely has the edge in experience. Mitrione’s lack of a ground game was exposed by Brendan Schaub who put Mitrione to sleep. Presumably, Mitrione has learned from that mistake, and knows he needs to keep a brute like Rothwell off of him on the ground. The threat of Rothwell’s wrestling should keep the lines close, and should also make a quick finish less predictable. He doesn’t threaten with many submissions, but he does tend to control his opponents well once he’s on top. Reed’s Pick: Mitrione by TKO (Click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The current for Mitrione is not unreasonable at -190, but the threat of Rothwell’s durability and wrestling attack means playing it much higher is risky. Rothwell still has KO power, and these are Heavyweights after all. Overall, this fight is unlikely to see the cards, but the ITD parlay material runs -450. That’s quite steep, so take a more specific angle. The Under of 1.5 rounds is currently -130, the Over +100. It’s a low limit and yet you’d still need to lay juice for an early finish, which is risky. Avoid the total and play Mitrione Inside the Distance or by TKO at whichever price is better, hopefully around even money or similar to the Under price. If you need to hedge, a Rothwell wrestling or clinch-based grinder by decision nets +756. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here. Want to put your knowledge to the test in Fantasy MMA for cash? Use the code “FIGHTNOMICS” for an immediate 25% deposit bonus at Kountermove.