The UFC will be back on network television on Saturday, May 13, as UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida lands at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. for the first time in over five years. Suriname’s Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Brazil’s Jailton Almeida will face off in the main event of the daytime fight card
After bursting onto the UFC scene with four straight knockout victories, Rozenstruik has struggled against some of the division’s elite. He has gone just 3-4 over his last seven bouts, being knocked out twice and twice falling via unanimous decision. Those losses came against the best of the best, but he will have to emerge with a win this weekend against a surging Almeida in order to remain somewhat relevant at the top of the heavyweight division.
Almeida has bounced around in weight classes, fighting at both light heavyweight and heavyweight, as well as competing at 220 pounds in a catchweight contest against Anton Turkalj that he won via submission. He has proven that he can finish the fight no matter where it goes, notching 11 submissions and seven knockouts. The one thing he hasn’t done is win a fight that goes the distance, so a five-round main event against a veteran like Rozenstruik will serve as a litmus test for his career trajectory.
Veteran light heavyweights will throw down in the co-main event, with former title challenger Anthony Smith facing off against Johnny Walker. After a rough stretch going 1-4 in five fights, Walker has returned to form as of late by notching back-to-back victories over Ion Cutelaba and Paul Craig. He will look to make it three in a row by defeating Smith, a fighter who went the distance in his title fight against all-time great Jon Jones. Smith had his own three-fight winning streak snapped in his most recent outing, dropping a fight via TKO due to injury to Magomed Ankalaev at UFC 277.
UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida airs live in its entirety on ESPN+ starting at 11:30 a.m. ET. The preliminary card also airs on ESPN starting at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by the main card on ABC and ESPN3 at 3 p.m. ET. Combat Press writers Andrew Sumian and Matt Petela preview the action in this week’s edition of Toe-to-Toe.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik got back to his winning ways in his last outing; can “Bigi Boy” stop the Jailton Almeida hype train in its tracks?
Sumian: Jairzinho Rozenstruik is the perfect step-up in competition for the rising contender Almeida, and this fight will definitely answer some questions about his ability to compete with the top of the heavyweight division.
Rozenstruik has proven time after time he can strike and strike hard. The Suriname native is a prolific power puncher and has compiled seven UFC wins all by way of knockout. However, he has struggled significantly when facing upper-tier competition, such as Ciryl Gane and Curtis Blaydes. Still, Rozenstruik on a good day is better than many of the top-15 heavyweights, and he has the power and ability to knock out any heavyweight that would be willing to stand and trade punches with him.
What is there not to like about Jailton Almeida? The Brazilian heavyweight prospect is 4-0 in the UFC and has compiled an overall 18-2 record since becoming a pro. Almeida is one of the smaller heavyweights in the division, but this has certainly been to his advantage since joining the UFC. His smaller frame allows him to move quicker and utilize his speed and athleticism to gain favorable positions and unleash punishment on his unfortunate opponents. He is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has finished 11 of his opponents by way of submission. Almeida is one of the most exciting heavyweight prospects in a long time, and a win over Rozenstruik should cement him as a top-10 heavyweight.
In summary, no, Rozenstruik cannot stop the hype train. This will be a showcase performance for Almeida. He will take Rozenstruik down at will and either finish him by way of submission or TKO. Almeida could be the face of the heavyweight division in the coming years if he continues to impress and win.
Petela: It will be interesting to see Jailton Almeida’s strategy in this contest. He has shown that he is a very technical striker, and that he can end fights on the feet. That might not be the best course of action in this contest against former standout kickboxer Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Should Almeida look to get this fight to the mat, I don’t expect him to have much trouble. Rozenstruik hasn’t shown elite takedown defense in his UFC career, as he was getting rag-dolled in Washington, D.C. by Alistair Overeem for 24 minutes before landing the fight-ending blow just before time expired. Unlike Overeem, Almeida is a prolific finisher on the canvas, so, if and when he does get the fight to the mat, he will do more than just control position and win rounds. He will move swiftly to the back of Rozenstruik and lock in a rear-naked choke for his twelfth career submission win.
The only thing that can spoil the party for Almeida is if Rozenstruik connects flush early, which is a definite possibility. It only takes one shot in the heavyweight division, especially when you’re talking about a world-class kickboxer like “Bigi Boy.” Should the Surinamese fighter land something heavy early, it could change the complexion of the fight. He could force Almeida into a largely defensive stance, so as to not get his clock cleaned by the thunderous power across the cage from him. It might not be what the oddsmakers think will happen this weekend, but something is telling me that is how this one plays out. Against the odds, Rozenstruik will land a crushing blow early and then lead the dance the rest of the 25 minutes en route to a decision victory.
Anthony Smith had a three-fight winning streak snapped in his most recent contest; how does he fare against the hard-hitting Johnny Walker?
Petela: These two light heavyweights are confusing. On any given night, they both can look like they are capable of beating anyone on the planet, and then, other nights, they look rather run of the mill. Ultimately, if the best versions of both of these guys show up on Saturday, this fight could be an instant classic. However, it is more likely that one of the two fighters comes out and steamrolls the other. In my eyes, it is almost a toss-up regarding which one of these fighters comes out firing on all cylinders, and which one comes out flat and gets blown away.
To actually answer the question, I’ll say that Anthony Smith does not fare well. He hasn’t fought since being stopped by Magomed Ankalaev, and, despite being only 34 years old, he has over 50 professional fights. With all the miles he has put on his body, and coming off an injury in a TKO loss, it just doesn’t seem like prime Smith is coming back. I have a feeling that Johnny Walker is beginning to hit a real stride, and that he is going to be a more consistent threat over the next couple years. My expectation is that this one doesn’t go more than two rounds, and it ends with Walker picking up a dynamic knockout victory. Hopefully his days of injuring himself in post-fight celebrations are over and don’t derail his path moving forward.
Sumian: Confusing is the perfect word to use when talking about these light heavyweights. To be quite frank, I have no idea who will win, because we have seen so many different versions of these two in the last several years. It is hard to know which version will show up on fight night, which also adds some excitement to this fight, given both men are capable of putting on great performances. I tend to agree with my colleague and will go with Johnny Walker pulling off the victory by way of knockout or decision. Anthony Smith has seen so much action, and it is hard to believe he is capable of still fighting at the elite level given his mileage. For Walker, a dynamic victory is a must if he hopes to return to light heavyweight contendership.
What one fighter’s UFC career is on the ropes at this event?
Sumian: I personally think the loser of Court McGee versus Matt Brown is on their way out of the UFC. Both of these men are well out of their prime and should be ready to hang it up sooner rather than later. Neither has shown anything to think they still have enough in the tank to keep on going for several years. I expect the loser to retire and be on their way.
Petela: Tim Means. He is on the verge of a three-fight losing streak if he comes up short this weekend. He is also 39 years old and nearing the end of his career, so the UFC won’t be keen on keeping him around to see if he has one more run into contendership. He has an interesting stylistic matchup against Alex Morono, but I don’t see Means coming away with a win, so this might be his final walk to the Octagon.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Petela: Carlos Ulberg vs. Ihor Potieria. This one doesn’t go the distance. After stumbling out of the gates in his UFC debut, Carlos Ulberg has been cooking with gas. He has won three straight and picked up knockouts in his last two bouts, neither one of them lasting an entire round. Ihor Potieria didn’t win any fans in his last bout, when he knocked out the retiring legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and celebrated a bit tastelessly, but he can crack. Somebody is going to sleep before the judges are needed.
Sumian: Cody Stamann vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade should be a bantamweight banger. In this day and age, bantamweight fights are exciting and competitive given how deep the division is. These two combine for 31 finishes and four performance of the night bonuses. Expect these two to put on a show when they come to face in the prelims on Saturday.
Who takes home the “Performance of the Night” honors?
Sumian: Jailton Almeida. He will put on a performance that will significantly raise his stock as a future UFC heavyweight contender. This is the type of heavyweight we have been waiting for, and his skills will be on full display.
Petela: Matt Brown. I expect him to land a monster elbow to close the show against Court McGee in similar fashion to the way he ended his contest with Diego Sanchez. The 42-year-old Brown has been on a skid recently, dropping three of his last four, but he turns the tide this weekend and picks up a big win in dramatic fashion.
Pair this card with…
Petela: Monkey Shoulder blended scotch. This card has a great blend of veteran names like Tim Means, Matt Brown and Court McGee, looking to turn back time, and up-and-coming prospects like Carlos Ulberg and Ian Machado Garry who could be major players in the promotion in the years to come. So pair this card with the best blended scotch you can get at a reasonable price, and enjoy the Saturday afternoon matinee card.
Sumian: When it comes to fight nights, this has a pretty high ceiling given the names and matchups we have on display. This card should produce a solid eight out of 10 by the time everything is done, and there will be several notable performances. I am going to go with a whiskey sour to enjoy Saturday’s card coupled with wings.
|Fight||Sumian’s Pick||Petela’s Pick|
|Main Card (ABC/ESPN+/ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET)|
|HW: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Jailton Almeida||Almeida||Rozenstruik|
|LHW: Anthony Smith vs. Johnny Walker||Walker||Smith|
|WW: Daniel Rodriguez vs. Ian Machado Garry||Rodriguez||Rodriguez|
|WW: Tim Means vs. Alex Morono||Means||Morono|
|WW: Matt Brown vs. Court McGee||McGee||Brown|
|Preliminary Card (ESPN+/ESPN, 11:30 a.m. ET)|
|HW: Karl Williams vs. Chase Sherman||Williams||Sherman|
|BW: Cody Stamann vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade||Stamann||Stamann|
|LHW: Carlos Ulberg vs. Ihor Potieria||Ulberg||Ulberg|
|LW: Natan Levy vs. Pete Rodriguez||Levy||Levy|
|Women’s FlyW: Ji Yeon Kim vs. Mandy Bohm||Kim||Kim|
|WW: Gabe Green vs. Bryan Battle||Green||Battle|
|Women’s BW: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Tainara Lisboa||Lisboa||Clark|