Fighter On Fighter! Breaking Down ‘Bigi Boy!’
Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Long-time professional kickboxer, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, will throw down fellow veteran knockout artist, Alistair Overeem, this Saturday (Dec. 7, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 7 from inside Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
It’s not hard to get excited about “Bigi Boy.”
We’re talking about a man with 76 wins in professional kickboxing, of which 64 were stoppage victories. In the Octagon, he’s finished two opponents in less than one minute combined, and all three of his wins have come via knockout as well.
At 31 years old, there’s still plenty of time for Rozenstruik to develop his overall mixed martial arts (MMA) game, but the world demands a contender now! Plus, Rozenstruik himself has been calling out big names, so he clearly believes he’s ready for the best in the world. At the same time, Rozenstruik will have to overcome a pretty massive gulf in MMA experience and grappling skill opposite Overeem, who’s quite the expert in both of those areas.
We’ll find out if he’s ready tomorrow night, but let’s first take a closer look at the skills he’s shown in the cage thus far.
With more than 80 professional kickboxing bouts on his record, it’s safe to say Rozenstruik knows how to handle himself in a scrap. However, kickboxing skill never directly translates from ring to cage, as adjustments must be made due to the threat of the takedown and different glove sizes.
With that in mind, I focused on Rozenstruik’s tape in MMA, because that’s the relevant information.
In MMA, Rozenstruik has done his best work as a counter striker. In his debut opposite Junior Albini, “Bigi Boy” looked quite uncomfortable leading for pretty much the entire first round. Meanwhile, Albini was scoring takedowns and ripping decently hard strikes, but still the threat of the takedown and general newness of MMA left Rozenstruik unwilling to lead.
That changed by the second round, and Rozenstruik has been more willing to lead in other fights before and after. Still, his counter work remains his best area.
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).
It’s the technique responsible for his recent pair of sub-minute finishes, as well as the topic of this week’s technique highlight.
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.
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.”
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 (GIF).
Lastly, Rozenstruik is a fairly dedicated low kicker. While circling the outside and working his jab — waiting for that left hook counter — the Surinamese athlete will work some quick digs to the inside and outside of his opponent’s thigh. In his Rizin 10 bout with Andrey Kovalev, this kicks did seem to take effect later in the fight and help Rozenstruik win the close decision.
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 essentially 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.
Against Albini, Rozenstruik made great use of the cross-left kick counter, unleashing a right hand and left high kick when Albini tried to snap a front kick into his face. It was a clear reactionary moment: Rozenstruik was struggling to create his own offense, but when Albini tried to kick him, he sprung into action immediately with great ferocity.
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.”
I’m not going to mince words: Rozenstruik doesn’t yet appear to be a very good wrestler.
Albini was able to throw him to the mat several times with fairly low-percentage techniques, which simply isn’t a great sign. It’s been less than a year since that fight, so while improvement is certainly possible in that time span, it’s unlikely that Rozenstruik will walk into this fight with Overeem have fixed everything.
Read the wrestling section above and swap in the word jiu-jitsu, and that about sums it up.
If there’s anything worth-mentioning from the Albini fight, it’s that Rozenstruik did stay calm when Albini put him in bad positions and threatened submissions. In addition, Rozenstruik did time his explosion smartly, using a stiff arm to counter a choke attempt and regain his footing.
Again though, it’s not a great sign that Albini was able to take down Rozenstruik and threaten with a kimura and guillotine choke.
It’s my opinion that this fight will prove to be too much, too soon for Rozenstruik, but that’s really the glory of MMA and the Heavyweight division. Rozenstruik is being thrown into the deep end quickly, and while there’s every chance his grappling inexperience will prove costly, he could also drop a perfect left hand on Overeem’s chin and find himself in title eliminator next.
Either way, it should be fun, and I doubt it lasts long.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 7 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then remaining undercard portion that will air on ESPN proper at 7 p.m. ET (main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN).
To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 7: “Overeem vs. Rozenstruik” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
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.