By the numbers: Rothwell vs dos Santos

Rothwell vs dos Santos has the potential to be one of the best heavyweight fights of the year. They are two of the very best in the heavyweight division. To analyze this fight I am going to go inside the numbers to find who has the advantages and what the best path to victory is for both fighters.


Both men look eye to eye, but Ben Rothwell is slightly bigger – everywhere. He has a one inch reach advantage with his arms, two inches with his legs and weighs in just under 30 pounds heavier than Junior Dos Santos (JDS).  JDS will most likely be able to negate the reach advantage with his superior boxing, but the weight could favour Rothwell if he can get in close and lean on him.


dos Santos – JDS is a precision striker and is deadly if he’s able to stay at a distance and pick his shots. In fights JDS wins he’s able to land more than 85% of his strikes from distance. He rarely throws kicks (he did KO Mark Hunt though), but mixes things up between the head and body well with his boxing. He generally lands between 65 and 75 percent of his total strikes to the head and 25 to 35 percent to the body.

He throws heat 18 of his 21 punches per round are significant. He mixes them up well averaging one body shot for every two to the head. His opponents average and equal 21 shots per round, but only 13 are significant.

He has never lost a fight where he out strikes his opponent and has never won a fight where he’s been out struck.

Rothwell – Rothwell is a big powerful man. He likes to keep the fight standing and is most successful striking from distance. Rothwell isn’t the most active striker. On average his opponents out strike him 23 -16 per round. Rothwell does make his punches count though, 11 of 16 strikes are significant. He’s a bit of a head hunter though throwing almost 9 of his 11 significant strikes to the head.

He generally doesn’t mix things up too much usually 70 and 80 percent of his total strikes are to the head. Rothwell is rarely more active than his opponents. His last three wins against Barnett, Mitrione and Overeem have all been stoppages and in all of them he was being out struck, so he will be patient and wait for his shot. A strategy, which may not be so beneficial against a guy like JDS.


dos Santos – JDS is a black belt, so he’ll be well prepared for any sort of submission game from Rothwell. He rarely displays his high level grappling skills though. On average JDS shoots for less than one takedown per round and averages just one submission attempt every 10 rounds.

He’s made a career using wrestling to keep the fight standing. His takedown defence is 80 percent, but that number is deceiving. In his career he’s been taken down 16 times and 13 of those times were against Cain Velasquez. Aside from Velasquez, Dos Santos takedown defence is probably up over 90 -95 percent somewhere, so getting it to the mat will be a tough task.

Rothwell – Rothwell has proven to have a legit ground game submitting grappling ace Josh Barnett and Matt Mitrione in his last two outings. Hel does prefer to keep it standing though averaging one takedown per round. His takedown percentage is a dismal 36 percent , so it is unlikely this one goes to the mat.

An interesting stat though: in every fight Rothwell has been taken down except one he’s lost, but he’s never lost a fight when he hasn’t been taken down.



dos Santos – He’s gone into championship rounds on more than one occasion and with the best of the best. He’s gone the full five rounds twice, against Velasquez and Miocic and was TKOd in round five of his second fight with Velasquez. Five rounds fights aren’t new territory for JDS.

Rothwell – He’s never been in a five round main event in his career and has never been passed the third round.  The pressure and demand of the championship rounds (especially on a heavyweight) is going to be a whole new territory for Rothwell. How he handles his energy management should be interesting.

Personal perspective

Rothwell will find success against JDS the same way he did against Branden Vera. He has to pressure him, push him up against the fence and use his size to wear on him. JDS begins to fade when he’s forced to grapple. If he allows him to stay at a comfortable distance and use his jab he will get picked apart by the cleaner striker. He has to be more active with his hands and can’t allow JDS to get off first, he is too accurate. Fighters have historically been unsuccessful when he’s been the more active fighter.

JDS needs to keep his distance, use his jab and stay active. Rothwell often allows his opponents to get off some shots. He needs to capitalize on that. His takedown defence should be good enough to keep the fight standing, but he will need to keep the bigger man off him so he can do what he does best.

Based on the numbers I am going to lean towards JDS in this one. I will take him by unanimous. Main reason Rothwell has the same comfort zone as JDS, but JDS is the better more accurate striker. I don’t think Rothwell is active enough with his striking to make him uncomfortable.

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