One half of the card’s co-main event Saturday, de Lima (19-7-1 MMA, 8-5 UFC) steamrolled veteran heavyweight Ben Rothwell (39-14 MMA, 9-8 UFC) and won by 32-second TKO. In doing so, de Lima became only the second man to stop Rothwell with strikes in the UFC. Everything went according to plan.
“I kind of looked over at (my coaches) and said, ‘Listen, I’m going to go all day, all into this guy. I’m going to be in all the way through.’ That’s what I did,” de Lima told MMA Junkie through an intepreter at a post-fight news conference Saturday. “I was really ready for this. I know that Ben is a tough fighter, but I felt that way all along.”
The ending sequence was both devastating and unusual. After de Lima staggered Rothwell in a wild flurry, referee Herb Dean touched the fighters to signal the end of the bout. However, Dean then decided to take a step back. In the confusion, the two heavyweights toppled the canvas, where de Lima looked up at Dean, who then waved off the fight.
“It was actually a pretty natural thing,” de Lima said. “What happened was he reached out for my hips and he said, ‘Stop, stop, stop,’ a couple times. Ben was already low. Since he had a low center of gravity, Ben actually got down. When he grabbed me, I actually said the first instinct I had was to put up my hands. Then, I looked over. Then, he said, ‘Stop, stop, stop.’ The thing is, I would’ve not stopped. I would’ve kept it going had he not said, ‘Stop.’ I wouldn’t have felt him touching me. The thing is actually he said, ‘Stop.’ So I said, ‘I’m going to keep going until it happens.’ And you saw what happened.”
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As for what’s next, de Lima is turning his focus toward family time. He will go to Brazil for the next two months before he returns to South Florida to resume his training at American Top Team. De Lima expects 2022 to be a big year for him, one that elevates him into title contention.
“I know it was quick work here, but it was a long, hard camp,” de Lima said. “It was an 11-week camp at American Top Team. I’ve been away from my family and my daughters for four-and-a-half months. I want to see the family until the end of the year, stay with them a little bit, and then obviously come back by January. I’m going to train at Lotus with Mario Aguilar in Sao Paulo in the meantime. I want to come back in January and be ready to go. I want by the end of the year to be in the top 5.”
UFC Fight Night 197 took place Saturday at the UFC Apex. The card streamed on ESPN+.
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