The Ultimate Fighting Championship will make it’s promotional debut in the country of Croatia and they’re bringing some big men with them. According to MMA Junkie, who broke the story early Monday morning, UFC Fight Night Zagreb will take place on April 10th in Zagreb, Croatia and will be headlined by a five round heavyweight bout between “Big” Ben Rothwell (36-9) and former heavyweight champion Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (17-4). Zagreb Arena will host the Fox Sports 1 broadcasted card.
After becoming the first man to legitimately submit former heavyweight champion and crafty veteran Josh Barnett on the UFC on FOX 18 card, Rothwell unsurprisingly called out champion Fabricio Werdum. Although Rothwell makes a compelling case for a title shot with his four fight and over two year unbeaten run, critics can point to the lack of top five opponents on his recent resume.
Junior Dos Santos is coming off a disappointing knockout loss to former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem back in December’s UFC on FOX 17 show. Dos Santos is still a top contender, however his last two fights have been of concern to those who have observed “Cigano” since his promotional debut where he destroyed Fabricio Werdum in 2008. It’s no secret that Dos Santos hasn’t looked to be in the same frequency post the Cain Velasquez rubber match. Since UFC 166, the last time he challenged Velasquez for the title, Dos Santos has only fought twice; this will be fastest turn around since 2013. With a 2-3 record in his last five fights, it definitely seems imperative that Dos Santos makes a statement in Zagreb Arena if he hopes to regain his belt anytime soon. For Rothwell, this is a chance to state his claim and add some merit to his ambitions of “laying waste” to the heavyweight division and fighting for the belt.
With the champion Fabricio Werdum and runner-up Cain Velasquez out with injuries for the time being and Alistair Overeem in contract negotiations, the heavyweight division seems ripe for new contenders to emerge. UFC Fight Night Zagreb also will showcase a heavyweight fight between former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga and up-and-comer Russian striker Ruslan Magomedov, and a light heavyweight fight between heavy hitters Jan Blachowicz and the returning Igor Pokrajac.