After a one-week hiatus, the UFC returned to the Apex Saturday night featuring a main event between heavyweight contenders Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai.
In a card full of heavyweight bouts, the main event was perhaps the most important for contender status. Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik came in as the #7 ranked contender in the division. His opponent, Augusto Sakai, was ranked #9. Rozenstruik, who had a less than stellar performance last time out against Cyril Gane, was looking to rebound after losing two of his last three. Sakai, also looking to rebound after a loss, looked to prove that he is a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division.
Rozenstruik (11-2) closed as a slight favorite (-120) in the sportsbooks. Known for his high-level kickboxing, all five of his previous UFC wins had come by knockout. When he is the aggressor, “Bigi Boy” is one of the scariest strikers on the UFC roster. Sakai, the slight underdog (+110), is a more balanced fighter, with good striking and wrestling skills. He does like to keep the fight standing, and that, combined with Rozenstruik’s promises to be more aggressive, made this fight quite an intriguing matchup.
Recap and Breakdown
This bout started out slow. Both fighters seemed to be getting a feel for each other, but Rozenstruik was controlling the center of the cage. Sakai played to his strengths, utilizing the leg kicks and staying outside of the big power of Rozenstruik. With about two minutes left in the first round, “Bigi Boy” started to unload more strikes, pressuring Sakai and keeping him on the back foot. However, the fight really took a turn once the clapper signaled ten seconds left in the round.
Throughout the round, Sakai was often fading to the right to escape strikes. Rozenstruik noticed this, and was able to set up a beautiful finishing sequence. Striking first to the body, then faking with the right hand, Rozenstruik got the desired reaction. As Sakai drifted to his right once again, Rozenstruik closed the distance with a left hook, which he followed with a right hand placed perfectly on the head of Sakai, dropping the Brazilian fighter. “Bigi Boy” then seized his moment, jumping in to finish with ground and pound as Herb Dean dove in to stop the fight with one second left.
What’s Next for Rozenstruik
Suriname’s Jairzinho Rozenstruik once again flashed his dangerous power in this bout. With the beautiful setup and finish, Rozenstruik improved to 12-2, with all six of his UFC victories coming by way of KO. Rozenstruik has the power to compete with anyone in the division, but it’s tough to tell what his next matchup will be. In his post-fight interview with Michael Bisping, Rozenstruik issued a warning to the top five of the division, stating “I’m coming for you guys”.
Currently, the heavyweight division is in a sort of log jam with Derrick Lewis, Stipe Miocic, and Jon Jones all vying for title shots. I think a good potential matchup for Rozenstruik would be Chris Daukaus, a relative newcomer to the UFC. Daukaus is currently 3-0 in the promotion, and figures to get an upper tier contender in his next fight. Another potential matchup could be Marcin Tybura, who also got a win Saturday with a first round TKO over Walt Harris. Even a matchup with Curtis Blaydes could make sense for Rozenstruik, with Blaydes coming off of a loss to Derrick Lewis.
What’s Next for Sakai
Sakai, with this loss, dropped to 15-3-1, 4-2 in the UFC. Likely to drop a few spots in the rankings, Sakai will be looking to rebound off of two straight losses next time out. Some potential matchups for him could include young rising contender Tom Aspinall, who is 3-0 in the UFC and looking for a step up in competition. “Big Ben” Rothwell, who recently got a win, could also make sense. Sakai will likely take a step down in competition for his next fight, where he will look to avoid dropping three straight, which, as we know, is dangerous in the UFC.