UFC Fight Night viewers guide: Rozenstruik has big punch, big plans

Okamoto: It's time to learn Rozenstruik's name (1:14)

ESPN MMA's Brett Okamoto details Jairzinho Rozenstruik's brief history in the UFC and what to look forward to on Saturday vs. Alistair Overeem. (1:14)

Shortly after Jairzinho Rozenstruik's 29-second knockout of Andrei Arlovski at UFC 244 on Nov. 2, reporters asked the heavyweight whom he wished to fight next. His answer: anybody.

A lot can change in five weeks, apparently. In that short amount of time, Rozenstruik's focus turned to Alistair Overeem, whom he will face in the main event of Saturday's UFC Fight Night in Washington D.C. If all goes well, perhaps he'll soon afterward be staring across at feared knockout artist Francis Ngannou, whom Rozenstruik called out recently.

"I wait for my moments," Rozenstruik told ESPN. "I know Francis has been begging for a fight. He's the big, scary guy in this division. The boogeyman. People want to see that bomb in the Octagon. They want to see who lands first. ... I beat this guy on Saturday, I'm looking for that fight."

Rozenstruik (9-0) is the latest example of an entertaining prospect rising quickly up the UFC promotional ladder, something that happens especially at heavyweight. The Suriname native made his UFC debut in February, but here he is headlining an event alongside a 45-17 veteran after replacing Overeem's original opponent, Walt Harris.

A seasoned kickboxer, Rozenstruik has finished all three of his UFC fights via knockout. The past two were over in 29 seconds and nine seconds. If Rozenstruik wins this weekend, a matchup with Ngannou, a former title challenger, is a very real possibility. That's not bad for a man who was willing to fight "anybody" five weeks ago.

"I know what I'm up against in this fight," Rozenstruik said. "This is not a fight I'm going into lightly. He's been here forever. He has a lot of experience. It's the heavyweight division. I'm prepared."

By the numbers

7: Heavyweights who have started a UFC career with three consecutive knockouts. Rozenstruik is among them, along with five former undisputed or interim champions. If Rozenstruik KOs Overeem, he will join Junior Dos Santos, Ricco Rodriguez and Shane Carwin as the only heavyweights to start their UFC careers with four knockouts in a row.

40: Stoppages among Overeem's 45 career victories (23 by KO/TKO, 17 by submission). Among his 17 losses, 13 have come via KO/TKO.

6:32: Octagon time for Rozenstruik, who has knockouts in all three of his UFC appearances, most notably a nine-second KO of Allen Crowder in June and a 29-second finish of Andrei Arlovski last month.

35: Days it will have been on Saturday since Rozenstruik's most recent fight, that lightning-quick KO of Arlovski on Nov. 2.

5: UFC main events for Overeem. He is 3-1 in his previous four, with the lone loss coming in an unsuccessful challenge of champion Stipe Miocic in 2016.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information

A look back

Five vs. five

Alistair Overeem's most recent results
Win: Aleksei Oleinik (TKO1, April 20, 2019)
Win: Sergei Pavlovich (TKO1, Nov. 24, 2018)
Loss: Curtis Blaydes (TKO3, June 9, 2018)
Loss: Francis Ngannou (KO1, Dec. 2, 2017)
Win: Fabricio Werdum (MD, July 8, 2017)

Jairzinho Rozenstruik's most recent results
Win: Andrei Arlovski (KO1, Nov. 2, 2019)
Win: Allen Crowder (KO1, June 22, 2019)
Win: Junior Albini (TKO2, Feb. 2, 2019)
Win: Robert McCarthy (KO1, Dec. 27, 2018)
Win: Andrey Kovalev (SD, May 6, 2018)

Fighting words


Alistair Overeem's best UFC fights

Take a look at some of Alistair Overeem's best UFC fights in his career, including wins over Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt. For more UFC action, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.

"Definitely one more title run in me. I mean, we're two fights up -- two first-round KO finishes. So, yeah, we're just going to ride it out. Very excited."
-- Overeem, speaking to ESPN

Film study

The performance that earned Overeem his 2016 title shot:

Brett Okamoto's prediction

For my money, Overeem is one of the most difficult fighters in the sport to predict right now. He is one of the most skillful heavyweights in the world and arguably the most experienced. There is not a fight in this division that Overeem is incapable of winning. He has the tools to beat anyone on any given night. At the same time, he's closing in on his 40th birthday. He has been knocked out six times in the past six years. The spectrum of outcomes for this one is very wide. Rozenstruik via first-round knockout.

Waiting in the wings

If Rozenstruik wins, he and fellow "big, scary guy" Francis Ngannou sure would put on a leather-flinging show, if that fight could be made. As for Overeem, if he derails the steamrolling Rozenstruik momentum, the veteran has said he has one last title run in him. He'd keep running, looking to take on someone above him in the top 10 (he has already fought -- and been brutally knocked out by -- Ngannou) because there still would be ground to cover.

What else to look for ... beyond the main event

The rest of the card, co-main event down:

ESPN, 9 p.m. ET
Strawweight: Marina Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Heavyweight: Stefan Struve vs. Ben Rothwell
Women's bantamweight: Aspen Ladd vs. Yana Kunitskaya
Men's bantamweight: Cody Stamann vs. Song Yadong
Men's bantamweight: Rob Font vs. Ricky Simon
ESPN, 7 p.m.
Welterweight: Thiago Alves vs. Tim Means
Men's featherweight: Billy Quarantillo vs. Chris Fishgold
Men's featherweight: Bryce Mitchell vs. Matt Sayles
Lightweight: Joe Solecki vs. Matt Wiman
ESPN+, 5:45 p.m.
Strawweight: Livinha Souza vs. Virna Jandiroba
Middleweight: Makhmud Muradov vs. Trevor Smith

Unblemished in the co-main

Rozenstruik is not the only undefeated fighter on the card. So is half of the co-main event.

Marina Rodriguez is 12-0-1, having won her past two fights after starting her UFC career with a draw. On Saturday, she takes on fellow strawweight Cynthia Calvillo (8-1), who also won her past two.

Rodriguez, a 32-year-old fighting out of Florianópolis, Brazil, made it to the UFC by competing on Dana White's Contender Series.

The prospects are good

The main card features two members of ESPN's rankings of the top 25 MMA fighters under age 25.

Aspen Ladd, a 24-year-old bantamweight, is 8-1 and will be coming off her first career loss -- a 16-second knockout at the hands of Germaine de Randamie in July -- when she faces Yana Kunitskaya. Ladd was tied for fourth on the list published in October.

Song Yadong, 22, will be looking for his eighth straight victory when he takes on fellow bantamweight Cody Stamann. Yadong (15-4) came in at No. 8 on the list.

Quick hits

Some undercard offerings from Andrew Davis of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • The tallest fighter in UFC history, 6-foot-11 Stefan Struve (33-11), returns from his February retirement to face Ben Rothwell (36-12) in a heavyweight bout. Struve, 31, has 13 UFC wins, tied for fourth-most in heavyweight division history.

  • The opening bout of the night features 11-fight UFC veteran Trevor Smith, who on Saturday will earn the dubious distinction of having the most fights in the promotion's history without appearing on a numbered PPV card (main or prelim).

A tragedy and a tribute

Saturday's main event originally was to pit Overeem against Walt Harris, but Harris withdrew from the fight last month after the disappearance of his 19-year-old stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard. Tragically, her remains were found last week in Alabama. Ibraheem Yazeed faces a capital murder charge, and two others face kidnapping charges.

There has been an outpouring of support for Harris among the MMA community, from fans and his fellow fighters. On Thanksgiving, Harris posted on Instagram this tribute to Aniah and her impact on his life:

View this post on Instagram

My sweet baby girl... I just wanna thank you for helping me change my life for the better... For teaching me how to be a man and a better father! For being my biggest fan win, lose , or draw! For always knowing what to say to put a smile on my face and lift me up when I was down and wanted to give up. You light up my world I'm so many ways. This pain is unbearable... I know you want me to be strong but it so hard baby it so hard. I'm gonna find away I promise you I will. Right now nothing makes sense and I'm so lost. I just want you back. I hope I made you proud... I'm gonna keep going daddy just needs time. I love you so much. Look after us like you always did. We need you now more than ever. My lil mighty mighty tiger is a angel now. I love you baby girl forever and ever!

A post shared by Walt Harris (@thebigticket205) on