Junior Dos Santos finds himself in an unlikely position against Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Night 87. The former UFC heavyweight champion isn’t just an underdog, he may be fighting for his place as one of the UFC’s elite heavyweights.

Needing Momentum

After dominating the heavyweight title picture along with Cain Velasquez from 2011-2013, Dos Santos is in a must-win situation. Since winning 10 MMA matches in a row, Cigano has lost three of his last five bouts. Now ranked #5 in the UFC standings, Dos Santos is looking for a win that will put him back on the title hunt.

Big Problem

His opponent is having an opposite run. After alternating with a loss and win for seven years, Rothwell is now a winner of four consecutive bouts, all by stoppages. None has been more impressive though than his most recent submission win over former champion Josh Barnett last December. During that bout, Rothwell controlled Barnett and was able to become the first man to submit the War Master in his MMA career. Now on the cusp of his first ever world title shot, Rothwell faces a former champion looking to prove that he is not yet over the hill.

While Dos Santos may no longer be the same fighter who once dominated the heavyweight scene, Cigano remains one of the best strikers in the game and he still owns two of the most powerful fists in the promotion. If he is able to keep this fight standing up, he will most likely win by KO or decision.

For Rothwell to win, he must take Dos Santos to the ground and tire him. Although Dos Santos has a black belt in BJJ, only 6% of his wins have been by submission. On the other hand, Rothwell’s second coming has been aided by a very strong ground game and his last two wins have been by submission.

Who Takes This?

Because of Rothwell’s winning streak, he opened as the favorite in this bout at -120 while Dos Santos a slight underdog at -110. But the lines have since changed and has gotten closer. In some books, Dos Santos is now the lean favorite because while Rothwell’s winning run is impressive, his quality of opposition isn’t as tough as that of Dos Santos. Rothwell also hasn’t fought more than three rounds before while Dos Santos has seen a round five three times in his career. Dos Santos’ championship experience and pedigree should play a key role in this fight as well as his heavy hands. Experts are picking JDS to win by early KO or unanimous decision.

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