The UFC’s heavyweight division being what it is, any fighter feels as if they’re one big performance away from a title shot. In the case of Curtis Blaydes, “Razor” had come ever so close, only to see it slip away when he was knocked out at the hands of Derrick Lewis.
In his first fight back since that speed bump, Blaydes was paired up with another dangerous striker at UFC 266, Jairzinho Rozenstruik. “Bigi Boy” had just two losses two his name; unfortunately, they were to champion Francis Ngannou and interim champ Ciryl Gane.
Rozenstruik put the pressure on early at UFC 266, backing Blaydes up. As things settled down, the takedown felt inevitable, and it came just past a minute in, right next to the fence. Blaydes fired knees to the body with Rozenstruik trapped. Rozenstruik moved to a three-point stance, but was pretty much carrying Blaydes on his back. It took time and considerable effort, but Rozenstruik did get back up, with two minutes remaining.
From there, Blaydes would stay outside, feinting while Rozenstruik countered. “Bigi Boy” charged forwards towards the end of the frame, but the round belonged to Blaydes.
Round two saw Rozenstruik again pressing forward, keeping Blaydes moving back. There was plenty of feeling out and feinting in the second, but towards the 90 second mark, Rozenstruik fired a jump knee that seemed to clip Blaydes. Curtis immediately answered with a takedown, planting Rozenstruik on his back. Blaydes moved to half guard, but there wasn’t enough time left for Blaydes to get anything done.
Between rounds, Blaydes’ eye was noticeably swollen care of that knee strike. That was clearly the path to victory for Rozenstruik, but instead, the duo basically stared each other down through the first two minutes. Blaydes then shot for a takedown, almost overshot it, and actually seemed to consider letting Rozenstruik up. Bafflingly, Rozenstruik chose not to get back to his feet, and Blaydes reengaged on the ground.
They’d go the distance, much to the displeasure of the crowd at the T-Mobile Arena. Curtis Blaydes took the clear decision win, but the biggest moment of the fight was the jump knee. Even with the win, Blaydes is likely no closer to the title picture, and will need a couple more given his style isn’t one the promotion is in love with.
Official Result: Curtis Blaydes def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)