Jairzinho Rozenstruik downplays his power: 'MMA is not just about who punches the hardest'

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Jairzinho Rozenstruik celebrates his KO victory over Allen Crowder in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on June 22, 2019 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik celebrates his KO victory over Allen Crowder in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on June 22, 2019 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Jairzinho Rozenstruik has a difficult-to-pronounce name but an easy to understand style: With the power he packs in his fists, he’s all about creating an opening to land one shot.

The Surinamese kickboxing star has the kind of power that has made Francis Ngannou a feared and legendary figure almost instantly in the UFC.

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Rozenstruik is 9-0 as an MMA fighter and 3-0 in the UFC after a legendary career as a kickboxer. He’s needed just 38 seconds in his last two UFC fights combined to score KO victories over Allen Crowder and Andrei Arlovski.

In his UFC debut, Rozenstruik struggled in the first round of a Feb. 2 bout in Brazil against Junior Albini, who took him down almost instantly after the bell rang. But when he got comfortable, the course of the match changed dramatically.

Rozenstruik stopped Albini at 54 seconds of the second round, cracking him with a short right uppercut and a left hook before dropping him with a kick to the head.

The thing that makes Rozenstruik’s power so fearsome is that not only does he own one-punch knockout ability in both hands, but he has that power even if it’s a short punch. He doesn’t need to wind up like he’s a center fielder on the warning track trying to throw a guy out at home. Like the legendary heavyweight champion Joe Louis often would do, a punch of six inches or a foot is often all that Rozenstruik needs.

Knockout power is the ultimate equalizer in any fight, and it means you always have a chance to win no matter how far behind you may be on the cards. Rozenstruik has always been able to punch, and he’ll get to show that against the best opponent he has faced when on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) when he meets Alistair Overeem at UFC DC inside the Capital One Center.

“My power is just God-given,” said Rozenstruik, who was 76-8-1 with 64 KOs as a kickboxer.

But it’s not all sheer brute strength, he said. The ability to set it up is as critical as is the physical strength required to land a crushing shot.

It is hours and hours of time in the gym, sparring, working on technique, of understanding how to create openings and then how to exploit them when they appear.

“It’s a lot of things and timing is important,” he said. “When you see a guy make a mistake, you have to be ready to take advantage.”

Overeem will be a huge test for him on his goal of getting to the UFC championship

If he gets past Overeem, he will clearly be a man to watch in the division.

The thing is, he needs to be watched carefully because his punches are often so short, it’s difficult to see them. Against Crowder, he landed a left hand just after the opening bell that traveled no more than a foot and which dropped Crowder on his back.

Crowder was probably done after that shot, but Rozenstruik landed a right from the top before referee Blake Grice could get in to stop it.

That earned Rozenstruik a shot at Arlovski, the former champion who was coming off a win over Ben Rothwell that ended an 0-3 streak with a no-contest. But Arlovski had gone the distance in eight bouts in a row and hadn’t been stopped in nearly three years entering that match.

When the bell sounded, Rozenstruik landed a jab that wobbled Arlovski. They exchanged punches and Arlovski threw a wild right. Rozenstruik stepped to his left and then hit Arlovski on the jaw with a left hand that was shorter than the punch that knocked out Crowder.

But he’s not one to boast and laughed as a reporter raved about his power.

“MMA is not just about who punches the hardest,” he said. “There are a lot of things you have to know what to do. That’s what I love about it.”

That’s true.

It’s also true that when you punch as if you’ve got bricks in your gloves, it makes MMA considerably simpler.

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