You’re only as good as your last mixed martial arts fight. Or in the case of the UFC heavyweight Jairzinho Rozenstruik, you’re only as good as your last year.
Rozenstruik (11-1) faces Ciryl Gane (7-0) at the UFC Fight Night main event on Saturday in Las Vegas (ESPN +, preliminary round at 6 p.m. ET). He will take part in the competition as a significant betting outsider (+220). Leading up to the fight, Gane is the one who creates more hype and higher expectations. If the undefeated French fighter wins on Saturday, he will likely be viewed as a heavyweight title contender for years to come.
It’s incredible to see Rozenstruik being overshadowed by an opponent who only signed with the UFC in 2019. In the same year Rozenstruik broke out and knocked out four opponents within the calendar year. Then he used the heat of this 2019 season to call out the most feared striker in the division. Francis Ngannou.
And here, of course, things went sideways for Rozenstruik. He suffered a 20-second knockout loss to Ngannou last May, despite bouncing back with a knockout round from the former champions in the second round Junior dos Santos In August this defeat against Ngannou will continue to follow him into the main event on Saturday.
The good news is that Rozenstruik has now seen both sides of what a hot or cold year can mean for his career. It went from a fire in 2019 to a temporary oblivion in 2020 after a demoralizing loss. But a win over a hot prospect in Gane, followed by – maybe – a matchup against Derrick Lewis (who comes a spectacular knockout from Curtis Blaydes last weekend), could bring Rozenstruik back into the fight for the title by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.
And while Saturday’s fight doesn’t do much to determine a UFC title in the short term, Ngannou will challenge Stipe Miocic on March 27th and former light heavyweight division Jon Jones is already aiming for the winner – this weekend’s result will have an impact on the top of the division for months to come. The winner should be drawn up for a big year in 2021 and beyond.
By the numbers
10: Rozenstruik knockouts among his 11 career wins. Seven of these KOs made it to the first round, including a win over 2019 Allen crowder It only lasted nine seconds, the second fastest knockout in UFC history. Also in 2019, Rozenstruik scored the latest finish for a heavyweight in the Octagon, a one-punch knockout of Alistair Overeem at 4:56 of round 5.
3: Heel hook filings in the modern era of the UFC heavyweight division. Gane has one of them (over Don’Tale Mayes in 2019). Gane is one of only two UFC heavyweights to have multiple tapout wins since early 2019.
1.85: Knockdowns by Rozenstruik every 15 minutes in the Octagon, the most active heavyweight.
6:46: Average fight time for Rozenstruik in the UFC in minutes and seconds. It is the fifth shortest among active heavyweights who have five fights.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five against five
Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s latest results
Victory: Junior dos Santos (TKO2, August 15, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Loss: Francis Ngannou (KO1, May 9, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Alistair Overeem (KO5, December 7, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Andrei Arlovski (KO1, November 2, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Allen crowder (KO1, June 22, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
The latest results from Ciryl Gane
Victory: Junior dos Santos (TKO2, December 12, 2020; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Tanner Boser (UD, December 21, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Don’Tale Mayes (Sub3, October 26, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Raphael Pessoa (Sub1, August 10, 2019; watch on ESPN +)
Victory: Roggers Souza (TKO1, May 24, 2019)
And the winner is …
As the head coach of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., Javier Mendez is well equipped to end a meeting between two fighters with a kickboxing background. “Rozenstruik is a seasoned kickboxer so he has an advantage there,” Mendez told ESPN. “The longer it stands, the better Rozenstruik’s chances of winning. But Gane is such a big, powerful guy – I think a little more powerful – Rozenstruik’s best chance is to knock him out. It’s very interesting because he’s a kickboxer with a lot of experience and another with more strength and less experience. “
Check out how Mendez and other experts predict this battle by clicking Here.
How to watch the fights
Watch the fighting on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, Get it here.
There are also FightCenter, Here you can find live updates for every UFC card.
Saturday’s battle card
ESPN +, 8 p.m. ET
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane | Heavyweight
Nikita Krylov vs. Magomed Ankalaev | Light heavyweight
Montana de la Rosa vs. Mayra Bueno Silva | Women’s flyweight
Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera | Men bantamweight
Alex Caceres vs. Kevin Croom | Men’s featherweight
ESPN +, 6 p.m. ET
Thiago Moises vs. Alexander Hernandez | Light
Sabina Mazo vs. Alexis Davis | Women bantamweight
Vince Cachero vs. Ronnie Lawrence | Men bantamweight
Dustin Jacoby vs. Maxim Grishin | Light heavyweight
Two More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Magomed Ankalaevwho is facing Nikita Krylov won his last five fights in the Co-Main Event and connected him with them Glover Teixeira for the longest active series in the light heavyweight division.
2. Pedro Munhoz, No. 8 on ESPN’s men’s bantamweight rankings, assumes Jimmie Rivera in a rematch of a 2015 bout that Rivera won by separate decision. Both fighters have had fights lately but against high profile competition. Munhoz has lost his last two fights against the former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and current bantam weight No. 2 Aljamain Sterling. Rivera have lost three of their last five, with the losses going to their former competitor Marlon Moraes, current champion Petr Yan and sterling.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.