Rothwell applied forward pressure throughout the fight while Barnett moved laterally on the outside. In the opening round, Barnett established his jab and looked to be the quicker of the two fighters.
Heading into the second frame, Barnett’s corner advised him to get to the clinch position. He took his coach’s suggestion and briefly tied Rothwell up. After landing a combination, Barnett looked to get the fight to the ground.
As Barnett worked for a single-leg takedown, Rothwell applied a guillotine choke. Barnett went to his back to try to defend the submission attempt, but was ultimately forced to tap out. It was the first time Barnett had tapped to a submission in his 19-year mixed martial arts career.
“That’s a warning sign to Stipe [Miocic] and anyone else who thinks they have a title fight coming. Step up and come in here with me and I’ll prove that I’m the number one contender,” said Rothwell following the win.
“Josh Barnett just made me a better fighter. I’ve watched him for many years. To submit him, this is a message to the rest of the heavyweight division,” added Rothwell. “I will go on to win the title. I will defend it, but this will still remain one of the greatest victories of my career. I respect him that much. He’s one of the best in the world.”
The win extended Rothwell’s winning streak to four consecutive fights. Previously ranked number seven in the heavyweight division, Rothwell put himself squarely into title contention with the submission finish.