Two ranked heavyweights collide in their second successive main event matchup this weekend, after thorough defeats last time out. Will Rozenstruik finally push the pace and show some urgency, or can Sakai stake a genuine claim for a top-five opponent next with an impressive return to winning ways?
Talk is cheap if you can’t back it up…
So much so that the French prospect, still a relative promotional newcomer, received criticism aplenty from many for what was judged to be a risk-averse striking display.
He boxed smartly, pieced Rozenstruik apart and kept his distance for sustained periods while showing he could last – eager not to replicate Curtis Blaydes’ display vs. Derrick Lewis.
At the time on the night in question, I wrote:
By the start of R3, Jairzinho looked visibly perplexed as he tried to find openings but continued coming up short as Gane kept his distance but jabbed effectively. As a statistic flashed up on screen showing he had connected with 34 strikes at distance – just nine for Bigi Boy by contrast.
Such was the Surinamese’ inactivity that many were expecting more from Gane, looking for a finish to what gradually became a frustrating main event spectacle.
During the pre-fight media day yesterday, Rozenstruik (#6) stressed this had presented an a golden opportunity to redeem himself quickly.
“I’m happy I’m here, I have this quick turnaround… I have to be the first guy to throw for this fight. It doesn’t matter what’s going to happen or how, I’m going to be the first guy pushing backward. This fight is going to be exciting.”
Naturally, he’s going to try and sell the fight. With UFC 263 just nine days away, you can forgive many – besides the hardcore fans – for wanting to skip this weekend’s card.
The main reason I’m tuning in to watch is for Moroccan featherweight Youssef Zalal scheduled for an early prelim slot, so that rather says all you need to know.
Rozenstruik and Sakai aren’t fearsome, nor exciting heavyweights. They’re a pair of big men who naturally possess knockout power, but appear too flawed to truly test the division’s top guys.
Sakai’s spirited retort as he eyes divisional step-up
“I want a big performance, a great fight on Saturday night, and I will think about [the future] after – but I want fights against one of the top five.
Everyone can expect a big finish, an explosive fight. I really want to try to leave the cage with a knockout win.”
After the Brazilian’s 4-0 UFC win streak was ended by now-released former champion Alistair Overeem last September, it took away a lot of intrigue and shine on a surging heavyweight.
Sitting at #9 in the heavyweight rankings ahead of this weekend’s clash, he’s still in good spirits though, which is important. After all, another main event slot is never detrimental to one’s career, unless you get effortlessly dominated or knocked out.
We’ll have to wait and see, but this represents an opportunity neither can afford to pass up.
Pictures via Getty