Jairzinho Rozenstruik has a pretty solid idea of what his upcoming opponent, Jailton Almeida, is feeling and experiencing right now, just a few days out from their headlining clash in Charlotte, North Carolina, as he was once in the streaking Brazilian’s shoes.
“It’s definitely a situation you can say is similar,” offered Rozenstruik, who began his own UFC run with four straight finishes, just like Almeida.
The kickboxer from Suriname debuted in the Octagon in February 2019 with a second-round knockout win over Junior Albini. Rapid KOs of Allen Crowder and Andrei Arlovski followed, making “Bigi Boy” a person of interest in a heavyweight division always searching for fresh names. In his first main event assignment, Rozenstruik went right down to the wire with Alistair Overeem, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with a last-second, walk-off knockout win to move his record to 10-0 overall.
He was flying high, filled with confidence, and ready to ascend into title contention. Instead, he ran into Francis Ngannou, kicking off a three-year stretch that saw the newly minted Top 10 talent post a 3-4 record while adjusting to life amongst the division’s elite.
“As a fighter, I think I’m growing in my process and I’m happy in the spot that I am, with the people around me that are helping me; it’s all positive,” said the ever-cheerful Rozenstruik, reflecting on his first four years competing under the UFC banner as he readies to begin Year 5 on Saturday with his main event engagement with Almeida. “I definitely think everything is coming together.
“I’m understanding the game more, especially the ground game — it’s a different language and you’ve got to adapt to it. I feel more comfortable than before with my style.
“There are still some things where you think, ‘I want this better,’ but you can’t be perfect,” he added, honest and exact in his assessment of things. “You want to execute on the night of your fight, and then you go back to the drawing board and make things better.”
From a results standpoint, Rozenstruik finally made things better at the end of last year, snapping a two-fight skid with a first-round knockout win over Chris Daukaus.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik | Top Finishes
Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!
Jairzinho Rozenstruik | Top Finishes
It’s not that things had been tremendously bad — the South Florida-based fighter was 6-4 in the UFC with six stoppage wins and all of his losses coming against elite talents prior to the contest — but after more than a year without a victory and having needing nearly a full five minutes to dispatch Augusto Sakai to earn his last win, the heavy-handed heavyweight was happy to get back to handling business in expedient fashion in December.
“It felt pretty good — it was awesome, and we needed that,” said Rozenstruik, who speaks about everything in terms of “we,” meaning his team.
He noted that he was dealing with some personal issues ahead of the fight, though he opted not to expand on matters when asked, and admitted that getting out there and posting another rapid victory helped iron out the issues and get things moving in the right direction.
“I had some personal things, some unhealthy things (to deal with before that fight). It was, ‘So now I feel great, I’ve got this guy in front of me, and the only thing I’m thinking is knock this guy out, win this fight wherever it goes.’ That was my mindset and it goes how it goes.
“It was great and gave us a good feeling,” he continued. “That being done, that being said, we were ready to look forward, and before you know it, we got the Almeida fight.”
A graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series, Almeida arrives at his first main event in the same position Rozenstruik found himself in ahead of his clash with Ngannou: 4-0 in the UFC with four consecutive finishes, though none have come against an opponent as experienced or dangerous as Overeem.
“Malhadinho” broke into the promotion as a light heavyweight in February with a quick stoppage win over Danilo Marques, venturing into the big boy ranks from there and encountering little to no resistance.
He hoisted Parker Porter into the air, deposited him on the canvas, and submitted him with haste. Four months later, he climbed onto the back of Anton Turkalj and submitted “The Pleasure Man” in a 220-pound catchweight bout before earning a Performance of the Night bonus at UFC 283 in January for his second-round TKO win over Russian veteran Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Four straight finishes in the UFC, 13 consecutive victories overall, and an 18-2 record have Almeida heading into this weekend’s main event as the most hyped new arrival in the heavyweight ranks this side of Jon Jones, but Rozenstruik is ready to show him that things won’t be as easy going forward now that he’s poised to start facing the division’s elite and competing in five-round fights.
“He’s talented — he has what it takes to be a fighter, to be a champion,” he said in regards to Almeida, who has suggested he’ll make quick work of Rozenstruik this weekend. “But to be honest, it’s gonna be the first time you see him against a guy that can knock his head off.
“I’m gonna be in his face, punching his face, every time that I can, so it’s gonna be a different fight from the others.
“You’ve got to fight different,” Rozenstruik said of main event fights; Saturday will be his fifth in a dozen UFC appearances. “You can’t go five rounds (makes car racing sound) because after the second round, you’re done. You gotta be thinking about what you’re doing. You’ve gotta be smart.
“It’s a chess game. I’m excited for the challenge, to compete, and to show the world that I’m still great.”
As for those predictions that he’ll be no match for the main event newcomer?
“That’s words and words don’t win fights,” he said. “We’re gonna be in there, bringing the big guns, so he better be ready.
“I’m ready and I can’t wait to go in there May 13, show myself, have this competition, and feel great.”