Few who’ve tasted Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s power still have their wits about them by fight’s end.
Just ask Andrei Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champion, or Allen Crowder. Neither lasted 30 seconds in the octagon against Suriname’s heaviest hitter.
Of course, the same can be said of the man who handed Rozenstruik (11-1, 10 finishes) his only MMA defeat last May 9: Francis Ngannou. That fight didn’t go past 20 ticks on the clock.
Rozenstruik, who has top billing for his third octagon headliner on Saturday at UFC Apex in Las Vegas as he faces Ciryl Gane, kept things in perspective and didn’t let the knockout defeat keep him down for long. He bounced back on Aug. 15 with a TKO of ex-champ Junior dos Santos.
“When I got the loss, that was for me like, ‘So, it’s not the end of the world. I can go back to the gym, put in work, train hard, and bounce back,’” Rozenstruik told The Post over the phone Tuesday.
“… And that worked. I feel good. I’m back on the winning side.”
Rozenstruik, 32, doesn’t seem to get too worked up about anything, be it the first loss of his UFC career or the manner in which many have dismissed the victory he secured just five months prior to that defeat. That win, against longtime veteran and former K-1 Grand Prix kickboxing champion Alistair Overeem, came with just four seconds remaining in the fifth and final round when the Surinamese striker hammered the well-worn button on his opponent’s chin with a winding right hook, grotesquely splitting apart Overeem’s upper lip.
The victory was clean for the 6-foot-2 Rozenstruik, known by the nickname “Bigi Boy.” And yet, the narrative drawn up by many since the Dec. 7, 2019 victory — just five weeks after flattening Arlovski in 29 seconds — depicts the win as a fluke. That stems from the fact that Overeem was all but assured a victory if he could have avoided that last right hook from Hell. He was comfortably winning on each judges scorecard, only dropping the fourth round on two of three cards. Few would dispute the judges’ stance in this one, but Rozenstruik did outland Overeem on total strikes, 109-101, according to UFC Stats. It’s not as if the victor was a punching bag for 24 minutes and 56 seconds and scored some sort of lucky shot.
And yet, Rozenstruik says it doesn’t bother him to hear that characterization of his victory. He gets where passionate fans might be coming from.
“It hurts to see your favorite fighter lose,” Rozenstruik said. “And I’m a fan too. I’m a fan of a lot of fighters. … So for me, I don’t have any trouble with fans saying things. It is what it is.”
Before Overeem was knocked out earlier this month by Alexander Volkov, a popular fantasy matchmaking scenario was to book a rematch. Regardless, Rozenstruik said a second bout with a fighter he professed respect for in Overeem isn’t what he seeks, but he feels confident about what would happen if the two were to run it back someday.
“I don’t think Overeem can win over me,” the confident Rozenstruik said. “I feel right now I’m so much better, developing every day. I’m a better fighter than I was before. I don’t think he wants that.”
Rozenstruik is less focused on the past and what-if scenarios than the current challenge ahead of him atop this weekend’s UFC Fight Night card, which will air on ESPN+: the 6-foot-6 Gane (7-0, six finishes). Both came to MMA as experienced professional strikers — Rozenstruik from kickboxing and the Frenchman from Muay Thai.
In Rozenstruik’s assessment, 30-year-old Gane is a well-rounded striker but one who moves around more. But Bigi Boy has been a professional fighter for more than a decade, and he feels he knows what’s needed to take advantage of the hulking Frenchman and end the contest on his terms.
“I have to put him where I want him, drive him where I want him, and then I can finish the fight,” Rozenstruik said.