The card that keeps getting cancelled, postponed and then put on again, UFC 249 has some great fights. One such hotly anticipated bout is Francis Ngannou vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
It was announced just a few days ago that UFC 249 has been confirmed to go ahead. We have a date, May 9th 2020, we have a venue at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville Florida. ESPN MMA official Twitter posted the below and, since this is coming from ESPN, I think we can now start to get excited about these fights.
One of the biggest fights on this card, in terms of anticipation, size and power is Ngannou vs Rozenstruik. These guys are both strikers by nature and are two of the heaviest hitters in MMA right now. Or ever for that matter, both of these guys have so far made a career out of hitting hard and being devastating.
Frances Ngannou has had a few ups and down during his time in the heavyweight division. He went on a six fight win streak, all finishes before meeting the champion Stipe Miocic. Stipe had the perfect game plan for Ngannou and wore him out with wrestling in what was a great win for the champion.
Ngannou was clearly shaken by that loss when he took on Derrick Lewis about 6 months later, that match up has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Both men seemed very tentative and it resulted in a very dull affair.
Something that didn’t help that fight was the anticipation going in, there were some very lofty expectations. The phrase ‘don’t blink’ was used going in, however in reality you could have taken a nap and missed very little.
After the loss to Lewis, Ngannou has been on an absolute tear. He has really found his confidence again and it shows with three consecutive first round stoppages. His last two stoppages coming against Junior do Santos and Cain Velasquez, that is seriously impressive.
It certainly seems that Nganu is back on form. The kind of form that we saw on his way up to the fight with Stipe. The kind of form that had Ngannou knocking Alistair Overeem into another dimension.
Rozenstruik made his name in kickboxing, his record is incomplete however it is something like 76 wins and eight losses. Anything in that ballpark tells us that he is indeed an extremely accomplished striker.
Rozenstruik debuted in the UFC on a six fight win streak against another highly regarded up and coming fighter in Junior Albini. There was a moderate amount of hype behind Albini but Rozenstruik landed a head kick in round two that allowed him to follow up and take the TKO victory.
Two more stoppage victories earned Rozenstruik a fight against a former opponent of Ngannou, Alistair Overeem.
The opponent in common
This is where we can directly compare the two fighters as this is an opponent that they have in common. Alistair Overeem is already a legend of the sport, he once held the Strike Force, K1 and Dream heavyweight titles at the same time. If you can beat Overeem it really sets you on course for a title shot.
When Ngannou took on Overeem it was over in the very first round. Overeem never really looked in the fight, I remember just how overpowered Overeem looked when they clinched against the fence and Ngannou just turned him round effortlessly.
Then at 1.42 of round one Ngannou landed one of the most devastating knockout blows that we have ever seen in this sport. It was spectacular and disturbing at the same time, it literally looked like Overeem had been hit with a taser, if Ngannou performed like that every time then he would be champion of the world right now.
Rozentruik’s encounter with Overeem was very different, Overeem came in with a terrific game plan and was clearly winning the fight on points. Rozenstruik wasn’t able to get anything off on Overeem until the very dying moments of the final round.
When Rozenstruik found Overeem’s face however it was worth the wait, a huge shot landed and split Overeem wide open. The referee stepped in clearly seeing the damage done, I wasn’t sure it was the best stoppage as Overeem was still very much conscious, but that lip was very bad.
So two things you could take away from their opponent in common. You could argue that Ngannou has the advantage because of that preposterous knock out power. However Ngannou has shown in the past that his cardio does not necessarily last into the later rounds.
Rozenstruik was able to end his encounter with Overeem in round 5 showing that he can obviously still find a finish right up to the final bell. With that being said he was not winning that fight, and one could make the argument that some referees would not have stopped it.
My pick for the fight
So who is my pick for this fight? I’ve considered a few things before making my pick, and MMA is just very unpredictable so it is tough. On the surface this is being billed as two heavy hitters, don’t blink and you will miss it type of affair. That is a very distinct possibility.
I am however thinking that this is three rounds and it will go the distance. As for the winner that is harder to be confident about, Ngannou has the power advantage but how much of that is just overkill. I would say that Rozenstruik probably has a slight speed edge but he was getting out pointed by Overeem right up to the end of the fifth round.
My main bet on this one is that the fight will go the distance, as for the winner I am going to go with Rozenstruik. I believe that he has shown enough over five rounds that in a three round affair he will be able to push a faster pace than Ngannou and tire the bigger man out. Rozenstruik by unanimous decision.