It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2019. Throughout the the week, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
Comeback of the Year – Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Alistair Overeem (UFC on ESPN 7)
For just under 25 minutes, Alistair Overeem was having his way with Jairzinho Rozenstruik. He was the crisper striker and was able to force takedowns from the body-lock position for which “Bigi Boy” didn’t have an answer. That all changed with just under 10 seconds left in the final round of their five-round fight. As the saying goes, Overeem was winning, until he wasn’t.
Rozenstruik landed a brutal winging right hand that sent Overeem crashing into the cage and down to the canvas. As Overeem got back to his feet, referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in to wave off the contest and noticed that Overeem’s mouth had been split wide open in one of the most brutal cuts in MMA history.
At the moment of the knockout, Rozenstruik was down on all three judges’ scorecards and moments away from losing for the first time in his professional career. By landing that hellacious right hand, he preserved his undefeated record and capped off a perfect four-fight run in 2019 that set him up as a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division.
The fight itself was relatively uneventful, and the crowd at Capital One arena was getting restless. That all changed as soon as Rozenstruik landed the fight-ending punch. The crowd erupted. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with no time to spare, proving that even among the hardest-hitting fighters in the world, he is a force to be reckoned with.
That one punch changed Rozenstruik’s career trajectory from just another clobbering heavyweight to a man possibly one fight away from a shot at the title. He is now scheduled to face Francis Ngannou at UFC on ESPN 8 in March. Overeem is by far the most impressive name on his resume, and his come-from-behind victory over “The Demolition Man” turned him into a celebrity, not just in his home country of Suriname but in the minds and hearts of UFC fans all over the globe. It also earns our honor as the 2019 “Comeback of the Year.”
Other finalists: Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier (UFC 241), Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes (UFC 238)
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