Rising star Jairinho Rozenstruik will get his first chance to take on one of the big names in the heavyweight division when he battles Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC on ESPN 7 in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
Rozenstruik (9-0) is a perfect 3-0 in his UFC career, with his last two wins against Allen Crowder and Andrei Arlovski taking a combined 38 seconds to finish.
Rozenstruik Steps in After Tragedy Strikes
The 31-year-old from Suriname has quickly made a name for himself, moving up to No. 14 in the current official UFC heavyweight rankings. The only thing his resume doesn’t have yet is a win over a recognized world class fighter.
That could change on Saturday, when Rozenstruik takes on Alistair Overeem (45-17), one of the venerated veterans of the heavyweight division. Overeem is currently ranked as the No. 6 heavyweight in the UFC, and is on his own two-fight winning streak, having dispatched both Sergei Pavlovich and Alexey Oleynik by first-round knockout.
The 39-year-old Overeem was initially expected to fight Walt Harris on Saturday. Harris tragically had to drop out of the fight after his 19-year-old stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard, went missing. Blanchard’s remains were found on Nov. 25, and officials believe she was kidnapped and murdered.
While Overeem didn’t know Blanchard, he still said he felt for Harris.
“I have three daughters, myself. So yeah, no words,” Overeem told reporters at Thursday’s media day. “I would give him a hug. What can you say to anyone? I can’t really say anything to that. It’s awful, the situation.”
Overeem Should Test Undefeated Prospect
The show must go on, though, and the UFC found an intriguing replacement in the form of Rozenstruik. While he hasn’t yet faced the level of competition which would prove he has what it takes to contend for the heavyweight title, he also hasn’t come close to losing yet in the UFC. Overeem should be his first real test, though Rozenstruik feels confident that he has the tools to deal with the veteran.
“Everybody can say you hit hard. I hit hard. But if you can’t hit accurate, you’re going to miss,” Rozenstruik told reporters. “So the thing is to find the chin and put him down. As soon as that happens, you’re going to see the result.”
Nobody has any doubts about Rozenstruik’s knockout power, which he has shown on several occasions at this point. However, he hasn’t had to show any other skills in his first three UFC fights, which leaves open the question of whether he has anything else to fall back on if he can’t simply power his way to victory. That said, in the heavyweight division, brute force is more often than not a reliable way to win.
UFC on ESPN 7 Odds
- Alistair Overeem (-116) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-106)
- Marina Rodriguez (-144) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (+118)
- Stefan Struve (+122) vs. Ben Rothwell (-148)
- Aspen Ladd (-160) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (+130)
- Cody Stamann (+164) vs. Song Yadong (-205)
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
Overeem uses a more conservative style that likely won’t allow Rozenstruik an early opportunity for an easy knockout. That means the fight could come down to what else the Surinamese prospect has to offer when he has to solve a puzzle.
It also means that this is a particularly difficult fight to predict, which is likely why bookmakers have their odds set at nearly even money. At FanDuel Sportsbook, Overeem (-116) is the slightest of favorites over Rozenstruik (-106), but it’s hard to say anything other than that this fight could go either way.
The UFC on ESPN 7 card also features a co-main event between undefeated Marina Rodriguez and Californian prospect Cynthia Calvillo, with Rodriguez (-144) installed as a slight favorite in a battle between two top-ten contenders.