Preview: UFC on ESPN 24 Prelims - Rothwell vs. Lins

By: Tom Feely
May 6, 2021

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The UFC on ESPN 24 prelims may not stack up to the surprisingly loaded main card, but there is still a lot to like about them. The featured undercard battle will see two heavyweight veterans attempt to get back in the win column, as Ben Rothwell faces former Professional Fighters League tournament winner Philipe Lins. Beyond that, perennial top prospect Phil Hawes looks for a statement victory against the underrated Kyle Daukaus, while hard hitters Ludovit Klein and Tafon Nchukwi seek their second Ultimate Fighting Championship wins in their respective bouts.

Now to the preview for the UFC on ESPN 24 “Rodriguez vs. Waterson” prelims:

Heavyweights

NR | Ben Rothwell (38-13, 8-7 UFC) vs. NR | Philipe Lins (14-5, 0-2 UFC)

ODDS: Rothwell (-115), Lins (-105)

Since his 2019 return, it has felt like Rothwell has eternally been in danger of becoming irrelevant, but “Big Ben” remains a solid heavyweight even as he approaches 40 years of age. Rothwell has been fighting for over 20 years at this point, and after a few years as an upper-tier heavyweight, the Wisconsin native started a run towards the title in 2013. His win over Brandon Vera kickstarted a four-fight winning streak that Rothwell capped in impressive fashion, becoming the first man to tap Josh Barnett in January 2016. However, Rothwell was subsequently outclassed in a main event spot against Junior dos Santos and then fell completely off the map, first due to injury and then due to a drug test suspension. Upon his return in 2019, Rothwell had obviously lost a step—enough so that he was no longer a realistic contender. His awkward style was dependent on surprising bursts of speed, and with that gone, he has mostly been a lumbering target for his opponents in recent years. Even so, he is still gigantic, durable and fairly skilled, and those traits alone have gotten him wins over Stefan Struve and Ovince St. Preux in the last year-plus. After dropping a decision to Marcin Tybura in October, Rothwell hopes to rebound against Lins, who is searching for his first UFC victory. Brazil’s Lins won the PFL's heavyweight tournament in 2018 and earned a million-dollar purse, but he was unable to defend his crown in 2019 due to injury. Instead, he signed with the UFC in 2020, and he has not been particularly effective. Lins has some knockout power, but his slow and patient approach saw him lose a close fight to Andrei Arlovski in his UFC debut. There was no shame in that, but subsequently getting knocked out by Tanner Boser in June was a much more concerning defeat. On the plus side, this figures to be Lins’ best performance yet in the UFC, if only due to his competition. Rothwell does not tend to provide much elusiveness, so Lins should be able to tee off on him at will. With that said, if Lins does not score a knockout—remember, “Big Ben” has historically been ridiculously durable—Rothwell figures to be the better round winner due to his pace and ability to control a smothering grind. The pick is Rothwell via decision.

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