The UFC heavyweight division is in the best shape it’s been in for a decade after Jairzinho Rozenstruik ensured he remained in the conversation for a future title shot.
The Surinamese fighter had lost two of his last three fights after a stunning 10-0 start to his career. He asked for a quick turnaround after his last fight, a defeat to Ciryl Gane, in order to stay active and in the bosses thoughts and was given the opportunity against Augusto Sakai.
He took the opportunity with both hands, with a beautiful first round knockout over the Brazilian to get back in the win column once again.
It was a pretty tight first round, with both fighters putting out feelers for the most part of the fight. Rozenstruik took the centre and used some leg kicks to find range but generally didn’t land anything of note until the knockout blows.
He backed Sakai up to the cage and as he circled out to escape ‘Bigi Boy’ faked with the right hand, landed a flush left hook and the finished the job with a couple of right hands too.
Sakai has now lost two in a row, but Rozenstruik has shown that he is somewhere in limbo in the division right now.
He’s beaten two former world champions in the past in Andrei Arlovski and Junior Dos Santos with vicious knockouts but both of those guys were well past their best at the time. When you look at his defeats, they’ve come against the current champion Francis Ngannou followed by Gane, who completely outclassed him without really shining himself.
Even his win over Alistair Overeem, who was on a good run before and after, came from a hail Mary strike at the end of the round in a fight he’d been dominated in for the most part.
But the win over Sakai now shows that he’s a level above those guys in the running for a top five spot, but whether he’s good enough to beat those above him is unknown now.
Someone in a similar spot is Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes, who had gone on a run in the division before getting flattened by Derrick Lewis in February this year in his main event fight.
Blaydes now is without a fight since that knockout loss but is still ranked at number four, ahead of Rozenstruik. It would be a great fight for both men, with a big name bout likely to main event a card but also a win moving them further up in the conversation for title contention.
By the time it took place, the title picture should be clearer and the top five will be more organised after Gane fights Alexander Volkov later this month too.
There is also the potential of a fight with the winner from UFC Vegas 28’s co-main event Marcin Tybura, who made it five wins in a row with a first-round knockout over Walt Harris.
Tybura is likely to move into #8 in the rankings now which would mean the only unmatched fighters ahead of him are Rozenstruik and Blaydes too. Number seven ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov is due to take on number ten ranked Chris Daukaus in July so Tybura could face the winner of that too if the timetables match up.
But with genuine contenders now filling up the rankings, the UFC is set for an exciting spell of fights in the heavyweight division and Rozenstruik is looking to be heavily involved in that.