Power puncher Jairzinho Rozenstruik stresses patience in UFC's crowded heavyweight division

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·3 min read

LAS VEGAS — Punching power in combat sports is similar to home run power in baseball. If a team has players with the ability to hit the ball out of the park up and down its lineup, no lead is safe nor is any game truly over until 27 outs are recorded.

Fighters who have the ability to end a fight with a single punch are likewise always in a bout, no matter the one-sided nature.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has been on both sides of that. His power is equal to just about anyone in the business. Perhaps the only fighter in the UFC who hits harder than he does, Francis Ngannou, finished him in 20 seconds at UFC 249 on May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Rozenstruik was unlike just about every other Ngannou opponent in that he didn’t dance away or attempt to neutralize Ngannou’s power in any way. He was willing to meet power with power and paid the price when one of Ngannou’s wild swings hit him in the head.

“In every fight you have a plan,” Rozenstruik said. “The thing is, you have to bring the fight where you want to bring it and don’t let your opponent decide where it’s going to go.”

Both Rozenstruik and Ngannou wanted a stand-up battle and that’s what it turned out to be. It was likely a case of the first man landing solidly winning.

The UFC has been feeding Rozenstruik a diet of strikers, with his last three opponents being Alistair Overeem, Ngannou and Junior dos Santos. On Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+), he’ll get another when he meets unbeaten Ciryl Gane in the main event of UFC Vegas 20 at Apex.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname reacts after his knockout victory over Junior Dos Santos of Brazil in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 252 event at UFC APEX on August 15, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 15: Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname reacts after his knockout victory over Junior Dos Santos of Brazil in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 252 event at UFC APEX on August 15, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Gane, who is a -275 favorite over Rozenstruik at BetMGM, is yet another high-level striker. He’s 7-0 in his brief MMA career and comes from the same gym, Paris’ The MMA Factory, that produced Ngannou.

He’s one of the few guys significantly bigger than Rozenstruik, as well. Rozenstruik knows it’s not going to be easy, but when you hit the top five in your division in the UFC, nothing is going to be easy any more.

The key is trying to make it look easy by landing one of his haymakers and sending everyone home early, and happy.

“I have to respect his work and what he’s done,” Rozenstruik said. “I’m taking him very seriously even though [I am more experienced]. I take him extremely seriously. You have to. But I’m ready for it.”

Rozenstruik actually dropped a spot in the rankings this week, going from three to four, after Derrick Lewis leapfrogged him following his KO of Curtis Blaydes at Apex.

Suddenly, the top of the division is very crowded. Champion Stipe Miocic will defend the belt against Ngannou on March 27 at UFC 260. Former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones will fight the winner, probably in the summer.

That leaves Lewis and the Rozenstruik-Gane winner on the outside, waiting for the chance at the title.

For Rozenstruik, though, it’s no problem.

“I am a guy who needs to stay active and fight, fight, fight,” he said. “If Jon Jones is next, that’s not bad for me. I think it’s actually good for me in a way because I’ll get a chance to get a couple of fights in while I wait [for the title shot].

“The more fights I get, the readier I will be when that time comes, so I am not worried about Jon Jones or anything else. The only thing on my mind is [Gane] and getting better each time I am in there. Nothing else really matters.”

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