Neither Jairzinho Rozenstruik nor Augusto Sakai will earn themselves a heavyweight title shot anytime soon. But both men could inch themselves closer to that conversation on Saturday with a big win in the main event of UFC Fight Night 189.
The two heavyweights are relatively early in their professional careers, but both have already established themselves as potential stars in the UFC.
Rozenstruik, Sakai Both on Title Fringes
Rozenstruik (11-2) ran his record to 10-0 before running into Francic Ngannou last May. Ngannou finished the Surinamese heavyweight in just 20 seconds, quickly deflating his momentum.
Since then, Rozenstruik has booked an impressive TKO victory over Junior dos Santos, but dropped a decision to Ciryl Gane in February. Now, the 33-year-old still holds hope of becoming a heavyweight champion someday. But the road looks far longer than it did two years earlier.
“It does change things,” Rozenstruik told Yahoo Sports, speaking of his loss to Gane. “I want to see what happened. What happened in the last fight, I don’t understand. I’m working much harder to find openings to see. Last fight, that wasn’t my style. It was a strange fight.”
Sakai (15-2-1) acknowledges that he’s not on the verge of a title shot, either. After earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil, Sakai won his first four bouts with the promotion – albeit two coming by split decision. That streak ended last September, when Alistair Overeem finished him early in the fifth round of their Fight Night main event.
But Sakai says he’s only two wins away from a championship opportunity. The goal: beat Rozenstruik in impressive fashion, then get a title eliminator against another top contender.
“The winner won’t gain many positions since the division is a bit stuck right now,” Sakai told MMA Fighting. “But the winner – in this case, me – will impact the division because [they] will enter the radar for the top-5 and the radar for a title shot, which is what we’re both going after.”
Endurance Could Show in Five-Round Fight
While both men have multiple ways to win on Saturday, there does seem to be a pretty clear dynamic at play. Sakai looks to be the more polished fighter, and has a good shot at winning via decision if the fight goes the distance. But he also showed some endurance issues in the loss to Overeem.
That could open up opportunities to Rozenstruik to score a knockout in the championship rounds. Rozenstruik has scored knockout victories in 10 of his 11 wins, and that will likely be the plan on Saturday as well.
|Rozenstruik vs. Sakai Odds (via PointsBet)|
|Jairzinho Rozenstruik: -125||Augusto Sakai: +100|
|Method of Victory|
|Rozenstruik by KO/TKO: +150||Sakai by KO/TKO: +320|
|Rozenstruik by Submission: +2000||Sakai by Submission: +1100|
|Rozenstruik by Decision: +450||Sakai by Decision: +300|
PointsBet lists Rozenstruik as a narrow -125 favorite to beat Sakai (+100). Rozenstruik is most likely to win by KO/TKO (+150), while Sakai’s easiest path to victory is a decision (+300) – though a knockout (+320) is certainly possible as well.
“I expect a good fight and a win,” Sakai said. “I want to end this fight as soon as possible, by knockout or submission.”