UFC Charlotte: Rozenstruik Looks to Hold Off Almeida in Striker vs. Grappler Match-Up

Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Jailton Almeida, UFC Charlotte
Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Jailton Almeida, UFC Charlotte ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Bryson Hester/Cageside Press

The heavyweights will take center stage as veteran striker Jairzinho Rozenstruik looks to hold off upstart grappling specialist Jailton Almeida at UFC Charlotte.

In a short span, Jairzinho Rozenstruik has found himself paired with many of the heavyweight stars of today.  The striker from Surinam has an extensive career in kickboxing, but rode a breakout year in MMA in 2019 to quickly become one of the contenders who is constantly in the mix in the UFC.  In the four years since he first entered the Octagon, he has been paired with the likes of Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane, Curtis Blaydes, Junior dos Santos, and others just to name a few.  Where usually one would have to work their way up to such competition, “Bigi Boi” has leveraged his pedigree and electrifying finishes to become one of the UFC’s more seasoned heavyweights in a relatively short amount of time.

Therein lies the peril, outside of his opponent, for Rozenstruik.  He is a handful on any given night, but he has come up short in several key bouts.  Despite coming off a win and being granted another headlining spot (under perplexing circumstances,) he has been paired with a younger up-and-comer who is in his first UFC main event.  At best, one can view the situation as the promotion going with a tested headliner for their return to North Carolina.  At worst, it would appear as though Rozenstruik has been assigned to be the litmus test for his opponent rather than being given a bigger name contender who might push him up the rankings again.  At a time when the division is on the verge of a turnover, to be relegated to a proverbial gatekeeper position would be unenviable, to say the least.

For Jailton Almeida, the top slot is a golden opportunity to showcase his skills.  While several experienced former headliners fill the undercard, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace has a golden opportunity to exploit a striker vs grappler matchup in the main event spotlight.  “Malhadinho” enters the bout at 18-2, with his only losses coming in the early days of his career in Brazil.  He is currently in the midst of a 13 fight win-streak that has seen him go from the regional scene to his breakout opportunity on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021 and four consecutive finishes inside the Octagon.

While his focus is on Rozenstruik, it’s worth noting the timing of the bout in the bigger picture of the UFC’s heavyweight division.  As several fighters in the established guard of the division are coming off losses and the reigning champion stating that his upcoming bout will be his last, the opportunity to leap into contention with an electrifying performance is very real for Almeida on Saturday.  That said, the leap in competition to a veteran like “Bigi Boi” is a serious one and a step back will be a tough pill to swallow when it feels as if the door was wide open and waiting for him to walk through.

Admittedly, the future is not quite clear for the winner of this bout.  For Rozenstruik, a bout with fellow heavy-hitter Tai Tuivasa or the surging Sergei Spivac makes sense to encounter a fresh face amidst the shifting contenders.  For Almeida, any number of bouts are available with the higher ranked Tuivasa and Spivac as well as Alexander Volkov and Curtis Blaydes if the UFC elects to catapult him toward the upper-echelon of the division.