Ben Rothwell vs. Junior dos Santos headlines UFC Fight Night 86 in Zagreb, Croatia

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

The UFC’s debut event in Zagreb, Croatia, is getting a heavyweight main event, with the UFC announcing on Monday that Ben Rothwell will face former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos on April 10.

Rothwell makes a quick turnaround after notching his fourth straight win just over a week ago at UFC on Fox 18. The longtime veteran became the first man ever to score a legitimate submission win over Josh Barnett, latching onto a gogo choke in the second round of their bout. He’s stopped each of his last four opponents, with two of those fights ending in the first round, and he’s making his case for a title opportunity. With that expected to go to Stipe Miocic, he’ll now take another step against dos Santos.

The Brazilian former champion is in need of a significant performance after several poor showings in a row. He’s been beaten badly in two of his last three fights, with the win a questionable decision in a fight in which he didn’t perform all that well. Those three fights have also been separated by significant layoffs due to injury, and dos Santos has suffered as a result, as seen in his most recent return when he was taken out by Alistair Overeem in December.

The April 10 event will serve as UFC Fight Night 86 on UFC Fight Pass, and is the organization’s first ever trip to the country of Croatia. It will air live mid-day in North America.

Penick’s Analysis: With Alistair Overeem still not signed, Stipe Miocic likely getting Fabricio Werdum next, and Cain Velasquez out until probably May or June at the earliest, this is the best of few options for Rothwell’s next fight. It’s a decent heavyweight matchup, and appropriate enough for a headliner from the UFC in Zagreb. It’s also a chance for Rothwell to beat a former champion and further strengthen his claim to a title fight. Seeing what dos Santos brought to the cage in his last few fights doesn’t inspire confidence in his ability to bounce back, but if he picks up a win here it would be huge for him in trying to return to relevance as a title contender.

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