Rozenstruik vs Sakai: Winner Stays On
By Jack Maher
To fans of combat sports, you’re often only considered as good as your recent performances, regardless of what you have done in the past, something Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Augusto Sakai will both be reluctantly aware of.
Having both broken into the heavyweight scene around the same time, both fighters were considered some necessary fresh blood at the weight, perhaps generating unfair expectations from some fans. As quickly as both fighters rose, the wheels also fell off for both heavyweight hopefuls around the same time.
Rozenstruik in particular amassed considerable hype in his early appearances for the promotion. The former kickboxer recorded three knockout wins in a combined 90 seconds, and having started in such eye-catching fashion, the Surinamese knockout artist was propelled to much higher opposition.
The first big test for Rozenstruik came in the shape of heavyweight veteran Alistair Overeem, and for 24 minutes and 56 seconds it looked to be too much too soon for the younger heavyweight as he was outclassed by ‘The Reem’.
It was in the dying seconds of the final round Rozenstruik scored a walk off knockout over his more experienced foe, although many fans thought the stoppage was premature and ‘Bigi Boy’ was lucky to escape without his first professional loss.
With his aura dented for the first time, the 33-year-old’s next booking seemed deliberate, either sink or swim with the sharks now he had broken the upper echelons of the division.
Francis Ngannou was the next assignment, and it took the soon-to-be champion just 20 seconds to derail the hype train of the ATT fighter.
While the hype around Sakai was smaller than that of Rozenstruik’s, his fall from grace was also less dramatic. The big Brazilian quietly opened his UFC account with five straight wins, three of which were TKO’s. Even if Sakai would not be champion, he looked a fresh face in a stagnating weight class.
Once again, it was Overeem who took the shine off the fresh-faced contender. The Overeem fight was stopped in the fifth round, although unlike Rozenstruik, Sakai found himself on the wrong side of victory, a true blow to his standing in the division in his first main event for the UFC.
While Saturday’s main event will mark Sakai’s return to the cage since his first UFC loss, this will be Rozenstruik’s third appearance since the defeat to Ngannou.
Going 1-1 since his first loss in the sport, this is a real crossroads for the #6 ranked heavyweight, a win could return him to the division’s top five, while another loss would leave him 1-3 in his last four. For Sakai a win is also very much on the agenda, a consecutive loss would not be befitting of a fighter considered one of the divisions better prospects.
Whoever has their hand raised in Vegas will certainly be back on track, while the loser will find themselves heading towards the back of the queue for heavyweight glory, struggling to still justify the tag of heavyweight prospect.