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UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik

MMA Fight: UFC on ESPN: Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik
Key Matches: Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
When: Saturday, March 28, 2020
Time: 10PM EST
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ESPN+

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Francis Ngannou, (-275), 14-3 (10 KOs, 4 Submissions) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, (+215), 10-0 (9 KOs)

Heavyweight contenders Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik battle it out in the main event of UFC Fight Night on March 20 in Columbus. These are two of the more-feared strikers in the division and fans are eagerly awaiting what promises to be a high-impact matchup. Ngannou, 33, has scored three straight knockouts, re-emerging as the scariest fighter in the division and maybe the sport. He doesn't just knock people out, he vaporizes them from the octagon with highlight-reel KOs. Rozenstruik, however, is unbeaten and in his short time in the UFC has shown himself to be a resilient destroyer. In his last fight, he snatched a win from the jaws of defeat with a memorable last-second face-smashing of Alistair Overeem. In Ngannou's last fight in June of '19, he made quick work of former champ Junior dos Santos. Who will come out ahead in this one?

Rozenstruik, two years younger than Ngannou at 31, is an interesting case. Coming off a long and successful kickboxing career, he is only 4 fights deep into his UFC career. He is a bit stumpy and chubby, but has a big motor and can really be explosive. With a few seconds left in his December fight with Overeem, he launched a right hook that split the whole side of his opponent's face in a gruesome and sudden KO. It illustrated a few things—that his power registers against a good fighter very late in a 5-rounder, he can take it and still be in there with a chance to win, and that when things look bad he can find his way into the winner's circle.

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Rozenstruik is a tank. Ngannou will be facing something he hasn't seen a lot of in the octagon. He has been in with some of the best, but he's facing a guy who is his size or at least a naturally heavy man who pushes the limits of the weight class poundage allowance. Ngannou is a few inches taller and the rangier guy. But he's facing a world class kickboxer with legitimate knockout power. Rozenstruik is not a guy who will melt easily. He can really take it.

Ngannou has really gotten back on track with KO wins Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, and dos Santos—all early first-round blowouts. Take those performances and some his pre-title shot wins and you're looking at clearly the biggest boogieman in the sport. He just starches guys. But there was those two losses that make you have to take pause. The loss to Miocic, where he was game in lasting the distance, was one thing. His non-performance against Derrick Lewis was more distressing. He showed he can go the distance and that he's a hard guy to finish. He also showed he isn't terribly reliable and could be a bit of a head-case. Sure, he's back on the right track now, but he was also looking good before the wheels came off before.

Watching Rozenstruik labor so hard with a fighter in Overeem that Ngannou blew out could cause some issues for someone looking to make the upset pick here. On one hand, this all comes down to matchups and that common opponent arithmetic often holds little water. Still, needing a last-second miracle to beat a guy who has been losing a lot lately is ammo for Ngannou backers in this spot. Rozenstruik will need a different approach in this fight. He's facing a faster and more-lethal striker this time around. Sitting around soaking up punishment while waiting to put hands on his opponent worked against Overeem and barely at that. Against Ngannou, he can't do that.

Rozenstruik will need to vary his attack in this fight and rediscover his kickboxing roots. He will need to mix it up and hold his own in the second-to-second exchanges. A scenario where one guy is doing over 90% of the work while he's waiting for a spot to launch a power-attack isn't going to fly against Ngannou, even for a guy with a great chin like Rozenstruik. One can't wait for a spot against him. Rozenstruik will need to work better—mix in some leg-kicks and earn Ngannou's respect.

Against Derrick Lewis, Ngannou was worried about Lewis' one-punch ability. And there are some similarities with Lewis and Rozenstruik in that they have similar statures with supremely-heavy hands. Ngannou could taste some early Rozenstruik power and lose some of the spirit to engage, rendering him a pretty ordinary fighter. Again, that depends on what version of Rozenstruik surfaces for this fight. He has an extensive kickboxing career where he scored 64 knockouts in 85 pro fights, in which he won 76. He knows Muay-Thai. But against Overeem, we saw a more flat-footed slugger relying on chin and power. If he can be a little more-technical and varied, he actually has a pretty good package of skills to counter the feared Ngannou.

Granted, Rozenstruik was dominated in large parts of the fight against Overeem. I just see this matchup being more up his alley in what figures to be a striking battle, whereas Overeem did a lot of other different good work against Rozenstruik. His power and chin make him a compelling choice, but I sense the greater crispness and viciousness of Ngannou's striking will be too much of a mountain for Rozenstruik to climb. It's a fight that promises violence, meaning anything can happen. I just see Ngannou being the more bankable deliverer of some early mayhem in this fight. In what should be a good one, I'll take Ngannou.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Francis Ngannou at -275 betting odds. Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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