UFC 249: Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik Promises Heavy Damage

Francis Ngannou UFC Minneapolis
Francis Ngannou Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Francis Ngannou continues to carve a devastating path back to the heavyweight title, but can fellow knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik take his place in the division at UFC 249?

Amidst the many lost and rescheduled battles over the last two months, one of the most salivating bouts was the heavyweight collision between Francis “The Predator” Ngannou and Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik.  The UFC felt the same way as they have had the fight rescheduled for both of their attempts to return to action on April 18 and on May 9, this Saturday.  With the UFC officially back in action, the world will finally get to see which of the two knockout artists will be the last man standing.

Going into his shot at the world title in 2018, Francis Ngannou had developed a reputation as the most devastating knockout artist in the heavyweight division and notched arguably the most violent knockout of the decade on his resume.  After suffering back-to-back losses, the Cameroonian bounced back with an impressive twelve month run that saw him finish top contender Curtis Blaydes as well as former champions Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in the first round.  The run has him on the cusp of another title shot, one that would be virtually impossible to deny if he scores another emphatic victory on Saturday.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik is enjoying the limelight of his incredible 2019 run where he needed less than two minutes to finish his first three UFC opponents, something that should come as no surprise considering he has over 70 kickboxing victories. The run had already put him in as the Breakthrough Fighter of 2019, but an opportunity for him to step up against former Strikeforce and Glory champion Alistair Overeem presented itself last December.  Overeem outpointed Rozenstruik for the better part of five rounds before “Bigi Boy” landed a devastating right hand that ended the fight in the closing seconds and became frontrunner for Comeback of the Year.

The stopping power of both men is well documented and the fight is likely to come down to who finds an opening in the first round as opposed to who has the better tactics over the course of fifteen minutes.  Ngannou has more MMA experience as well as more time in the UFC, but Rozenstruik has by far more combat sports experience overall from his years in kickboxing.  Both men have less than four fights in MMA that have gone past the second round.  The x-factor going into the bout: How will Ngannou’s cardio hold up should the fight go into the later rounds?  Ngannou gassed out the last time he went past the second round in 2018 and has not had to show any changes he’s made, as he’s needed less than a round to finish his past three opponents.  Rozenstruik, for his part, held up well in his five round fight with Alistair Overeem in December.

There is currently no timetable for reigning champion Stipe Miocic to return to action as he works on the frontlines of the pandemic as a firefighter, and the plan remains for him to have a rubber match with Daniel Cormier upon his return.  The winner of Ngannou and Rozenstruik would be the unanimous number one contender for the belt.  Depending on how long the division waits for Miocic to return, an interim title fight for the winner of Ngannou and Rozenstruik is not out of the question later this year.