Former professional kickboxer, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, will duel with ex-Bellator champ, Alexander Volkov, this Saturday (June 4, 2022) at UFC Vegas 56 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It certainly feels like Rozenstruik’s ceiling has been established. “Bigi Boy” is clearly good, a Top 10 Heavyweight with genuinely ferocious power in his hands. However, seeing as Rozenstruik hasn’t quite managed to unleash his offense consistently on the heels of 80-some professional kickboxing matches, it seems unlikely that he’s suddenly going to fix that hole in his striking. Still, anything is possible at Heavyweight, particularly since Rozenstruik does have the power to shut off the lights of any man in his division. If everything clicks one day soon, his division might be in real trouble.
Until then, let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Between his kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) careers, Rozenstruik has knocked out a whole lot of people. For better or worse, Rozenstruik operates almost entirely as a counter striker. Initially, it seem like this was perhaps due to his newness in MMA, but it seems to simply be his style.
Left to his own devices, Rozenstruik is rather low volume. At distance, he focuses largely on flicking jabs and digging quick inside low kicks. Often, he’s just touching his opponent, convincing them to swing in his direction. Rozenstruik is not a particularly tall Heavyweight, but his 78-inch reach is considerable, and he makes the most of it with a long jab. Though Rozenstruik does not load up on the shot or over-commit, his quick jab lands unusually hard based on the reactions of his opponents.
Rozenstruik’s main counter punch is the left hook. Specifically, Rozenstruik is constantly looking to parry with his right hand, which allows him to shift his weight slightly and load up the hook. Whether his opponent follows up with the right or not, Rozenstruik will attempt to loop a surprisingly powerful left hook into the temple (GIF).
Very often, this left hook is battling with his opponent’s right hand. That’s a risky game, as even a well-thrown left hook can be beaten if his opponent is a bit faster or closer than anticipated (as happened versus Ngannou). Still, given Rozenstruik’s knockouts scored vs. knockouts absorbed ratio (75-3), he’s winning that battle more often than not.
Continuing more on the left hook, Rozenstruik will not just throw the punch on the counter. He’ll often lead with the strike as well, squaring up his shoulders and jumping into the punch, commonly following his hook with a hard cross. If an opponent is understandably focused on parrying that heavy jab, expect a leaping hook from “Bigi Boy.”
Against Junior dos Santos, Rozenstruik spent a fair amount of time trading small distance shots with “Cigano.” Almost immediately after turning up the pressure, however, Rozenstruik knocked him out! He did so with a tricky combination, loading up his lead hand to score a left uppercut then following with a right hook. He shifted into Southpaw to fire the right, closing some distance with the punch and putting down dos Santos.
Opposite Albini, Rozenstruik finished the fight with a crafty stance-switch following the left hook. After the leap and punch, Rozenstruik was square enough in the hips that a shift to Southpaw was easy. From this now stance, Rozenstruik ripped a hard right hook-left kick combination, but “Baby” was already going down before the kick could land.
Aside from his parry-left hook counter, Rozenstruik will showcase his kickboxing experience with punch-kick counters. In MMA, the rhythm is often slower, as fighters almost take turns trying to hit each other. That’s far less common in kickboxing, where it is essential to immediately answer any offense quickly, often with the standard Muay Thai counters that are drilled into muscle memory: hook-cross-left kick and cross-hook-right kick.
It’s worth-noting that Rozenstruik has not proven that difficult to hit in MMA. His reliance on the parry-left hook counter is risky — foes have found success by skipping the jab and simply slamming an overhand into his jaw, which can also take their own head off-line and avoid the hook. There are definitely still adjustments to be made on the defensive end for “Bigi Boy.”
In addition, Rozenstruik’s performance opposite Ciryl Gane was simply … odd. Gane moves well and has tricks up his sleeve, but the French athlete most just stuck his jab and low for five full rounds. It was bizarre to watch such an experienced kickboxer — one who has to be accustomed to being the shorter man — come up with so few answers to a basic strategy.
Was his subsequent victory over Augusto Sakai an improvement? Sort of. Rozenstruik spent the better part of five minutes throwing little beyond half-committal jabs and inside low kicks. Then, in the closing seconds of the round, he actually stepped into a combination, hooking off the jab and crashing forward behind a right (GIF).
Sakai was instantly on the floor! A great win, but precisely why “Bigi Boy” fights can be so frustrating.
Rozenstruik is a demonstration on the importance of physicality and fundamentals in wrestling, as he’s been able to shore up his defensive holes rather well in a short time.
Albini threw Rozenstruik to the mat on a few occasions in Rozenstruik’s debut, but Overeem had a more difficult time. He was still able to land the occasional clinch trip, but a majority of the time, Rozenstruik was able to control hands and use the cage to keep him upright. Often, it’s as simple as waiting for an opponent to release the clinch or circling to the underhook.
Gane, alternatively, looked to change levels and attack the shot below the waist along the fence. Rozenstruik stuffed most of his shots, though Gane did manage to trip him down a couple times. Perhaps more importantly, Gane’s successful takedowns did seem to shake Rozenstruik’s confidence.
Blaydes didn’t have an easy time taking Rozenstruik down, but he controlled him more than the others. Blaydes’ bread and butter is that running double leg along the center followed by subsequent mat returns, and it’s a good sign that Rozenstruik was able to deny a few of them. Unfortunately, the issue of Rozenstruik’s volume dropping off after being forced to wrestle was definitely still present.
Similar to the above section, Rozenstruik has not shown much beyond fundamentals and patience.
Against Overeem, Rozenstruik did show smart defense and awareness. He was always looking for an underhook from his back, which prevented Overeem from really releasing his ground strikes or getting too comfortable. Overeem’s top game is no joke, but “Bigi Boy” escaped relatively unharmed, which is a good sign.
Rozenstruik has incredible power and experience, but it still feels like he has yet to reach his potential inside the Octagon. If he cannot unleash his offense opposite a fairly straightforward kickboxer in Volkov, he’s unlikely to do it against more varied threats in the future.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.
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