UFC Vegas 20 – The Fallout

UFC
Mandatory Credit: Jeff Bottari – Zuffa LLC

Consequences for reckless abandonment at the highest level in mixed martial arts are more often than not, punished dearly — no more so than at the elite level of heavyweight competition.  To find a case study that supports this — look at Derrick Lewis’ stunning knockout win over the consensus, more technical fighter, Curtis Blaydes just last weekend.

Saturday’s matchup between Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane had the potential to play out in an all too familiar fashion; the more technical force falters at the hands, or more likely, a hand of the heavier hitter. UFC president, Dana White has openly shown his dismay for Gane’s performance, in his proclaimed “coming out party” against Rozenstruik, however, we failed to see that same sort of attitude from the promotional leader after Israel Adesanya’s and Yoel Romero’s lacklustre displays back in March of last year. It takes two to tango — or in this case, tussle, and produce an entertaining matchup. Gane did his job sufficiently, however. 

Rozenstruik rivals the like of Lewis and former-foe, Francis Ngannou as the heaviest punchers in the heavyweight division today, and paramount for Gane at this stage in his career is not only time spent in the Octagon — but results. Turning on the afterburners in search of a standout performance against someone of Rozenstruik’s knockout expertise would be foolish to say the least, no matter who that seems to disappoint. 

Gane entered the matchup siding against a usual conventional style, but moved between southpaw and orthodox on Saturday night against his Suriname opposition. Bouncing on the balls of his feet and drifting in and out of range like no one else at heavyweight, Gane largely pot shotted Rozenstruik who failed throughout to offer anything overly substantial in regards to offensive output. 

It was a shrewd performance from Gane — displaying a level of maturity despite making just his eighth professional walk, that’ll stand to him in the future. 

Likely to assume Rozenstruik’s #4 rank in the official standings off the back of his 50-45 unanimous decision shutout, Gane has noted his interest in filling in for either Stipe Miocic or former Factory MMA teammate, Ngannou at UFC 260 in the situation in which he’s required. If that fails to materialise for the Frenchman, I’ve got a matchup in mind that would make either himself or his opponent undeniable for a title shot in their next outing with a win.

Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane:

Not only did Lewis emerge relatively unscathed from his high-profile headliner against Blaydes last weekend, but Gane also followed suit with his outing against Rozenstruik. Lewis has noted his interest in a seemingly long-standing rivalry with Alistair Overeem to remain active, however, I’m struggling to find a legitimate reason or reality where that fight gets made next.

Pit Lewis and Gane together either before or during the summer and you’ve got yourself a legitimate title-eliminator at heavyweight. If you wait until the middle of summer to make that pairing, that offers you an opportunity to field the matchup possibly on the same card as the projected heavyweight title tilt between either Miocic or Ngannou and the division newcomer, former two-time light heavyweight best, Jon Jones.

Lewis has landed at #2 in the official pile at heavyweight, and a matchup against the recently faltering Overeem doesn’t pique my interest as it would’ve if Overeem had dispatched recent common-opposition, Alexander Volkov. 

Granted, I had my concerns regarding Gane’s ability to tackle someone with Rozenstruik’s knockout power this early in not just his UFC tenure, but his professional career as a whole. And if he can show that same level of maturity and cunning to overcome Lewis, a title shot likely awaits.

Alexander Volkov vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik:

Two kickboxers with varying styles make for an interesting matchup — on paper that is, at least. It’s not as if Rozenstruik appeared gun-shy against Gane, but he failed to ever appear capable of setting the traps to draw the dynamic talent onto his favoured counter left hand. 

The now 11-2 striker has claimed that it was his worst performance of his career, and it’s pretty hard to argue, given the fact his only other loss came in the form of a twenty-second blitzing at the hands of Ngannou at UFC 249 last May. 

Rozenstruik’s certainly not out of the picture in many respects; strikers with the power that he possesses can find their feet relatively quickly again. 
A pairing with the recent winner, Volkov puts the victor within touching distance of a title challenge — all things considered, of course, but the kicking and accuracy puzzle presented by Volkov is something I’m interested to see if Rozenstruik can solve. 

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