Unbeaten as a pro, Jairzinho Rozenstruik was about to lose that “0” as the seconds ticked away in his December bout with perennial heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem, who had put together a seemingly airtight plan to beat the Suriname native.
Even Rozenstruik was impressed.
“He had a game plan that was perfect,” he said, but as Mike Tyson famously and correctly commented, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Rozenstruik hadn’t got too many shots off at “The Demolition Man,” but if everyone else around him was worried that he was about to lose, the man with the gloves on wasn’t.
“As soon as I got the opportunity, I knew I was going to take it,” he said. "I was patient, I was relaxed, and I knew he was gonna make a mistake, but we didn’t know when. As soon as I found the opportunity, I put him down, walked away and we won the fight.”
Sounds simple enough, and he made it look that way, landing with a flush right hand that split Overeem’s lip and sent him crashing to the canvas. As Rozenstruik walked away, Overeem staggered to his feet and the fight was stopped. The time? Four minutes and 56 seconds of the fifth and final round.
“I’m always relaxed in finding opportunities in the fight,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m not focusing on one thing or two things, I’m focusing on the whole fight, and I always find what I’m looking for.”
The victory, which lifted Rozenstruik’s record to 10-0 with nine knockouts, was the capper to a 4-0 rookie year in the UFC, setting up a big 2020 campaign for the “Bigi Boy.” Some would take the foot off the gas to ease into the year, but the 32-year-old has opted to go for the proverbial throat of the heavyweight division by requesting a fight with No. 2-ranked contender Francis Ngannou.
“For me, fighting Francis is the biggest opportunity right now,” he said. “I’m looking to get a title and he’s the number two, so that’s the guy to fight, step into his place and secure the title shot. I want to be the champion.”
Should he leave Florida with a victory in Saturday’s UFC 249 bout, Rozenstruik would have to be the next to get a shot after champion Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier settle their business in the Octagon. There really are no other options outside of No. 3-ranked Curtis Blaydes, who has lost twice to Ngannou. So as far as Rozenstruik is concerned, this call-out was a no-brainer, despite the ferocious string of knockouts “The Predator” has delivered in 2018-19 over Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
“Fighting Francis is a big challenge and me and my team like a challenge,” he said. “He’s secured a spot, we need it, and to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
Add in the path of destruction Rozenstruik paved in his first year in the UFC, and there’s no surprise that this bout – which was originally scheduled to headline in Columbus in March – is one of the most highly anticipated of the year, even if Ngannou isn’t overly impressed with his foe, who he believes got lucky against Overeem.
“I don’t believe I’m lucky,” said Rozenstruik. “I always train hard, I’m always in shape, I was patient, I trained for what I wanted, so as soon as the opportunity came, I put him down. But I’m happy that people underestimate me, so that means I’ve got a lot to prove. They don’t see me coming, but they’ll remember my name after this.”
And as far as Rozenstruik is concerned, he doesn’t believe any of the pre-fight talk coming from his opponents, past or present.
“The real thing is, they don’t underestimate me,” he said. “I think they’re just saying it to fool people. They know what’s gonna happen, they know what’s coming. They have to say something. That’s the way they say it and that’s the word they choose. He (Ngannou) is taking a big risk and I’m happy that he’s taking this risk because I’m gonna knock him out.”
It is what Rozenstruik does. And like he said, if you don’t know him already, if he beats Ngannou, you will.
“He’s the next guy on the list,” said Rozenstruik.
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