By: Fasika Zelealem
Sunday’s clash between heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik is likely a number one contender’s fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, currently held by Stipe Miocic. The winner might even become Interim-Champ as Miocic has remained sidelined with an eye injury since last year’s win over former champ Daniel Cormier.
The fight was originally scheduled as the main event of UFC Fight Night: Columbus on March 28 but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC 249 returns this Sunday much to the delight of fight fans and all sports fans across the world as the UFC is the only major sports promotion in North America to return to action.
Ngannou is the number two ranked heavyweight in the division and is on a three-fight win steak including wins over former UFC champions Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. His opponent in Rozenstruik, who only joined the UFC in 2019, is an unbeaten mixed martial artist possessing a career record of 10-0.
He’s 4-0 in the UFC (all knockouts) and most recently knocked out Alistair Overeem last December and was responsible for the shocking images of Overeem’s split lip that went viral on social media after the fight. He also has a win over a former UFC champion under his belt with his knockout of Andrei Arlovski last November.
Ngannou Odds vs. Rozenstruik: Can the Upstart Rock the Favorite?
Ngannou (UFC 249 Odds: -290) is one of the most popular/feared fighters in the UFC and lead UFC commenter Jon Anik had kind words to say about the Cameroonian.
“If he is not the scariest power puncher to have ever touched down on that canvas. I’ll take your other nominations,” Anik said after Ngannou’s knockout victory over Junior dos Santos.
Both fighters have expressed frustration at the stagnation of the heavyweight division with champion Stipe Miocic fighting just twice in two years. Rozenstruik (UFC 249 Odds: +230) told MMA Fighting that he wants an interim heavyweight title on the line for his fight against Ngannou.
“My idea for the heavyweight division because of the situation, no disrespect to the champ [Stipe Miocic] and [Daniel] Cormier, but the decision is it’s held up,” Rozenstruik said when speaking to MMA Fighting.
“My idea was let us fight for an interim title, and I think the heavyweight division needs that. We can move on. When the champ is done, we can go again. That’s my idea.”
Rozenstruik makes a good point; the last person to take part in a UFC heavyweight title fight not named Stipe Miocic or Daniel Cormier was Derrick Lewis back in November 2018.
The division continues to be held up by the two fighters who are working on a trilogy fight for some time this summer in what will likely be Cormier’s last ever MMA fight before retirement.
While that is a fight that has to be made, the UFC has two thoroughbreds in Ngannou and Rozenstruik in the prime of their careers and they shouldn’t be forced to wait for a well-deserved title shot, undisputed or interim.
They are the two most exciting fighters in the division and the one who walks out victorious on Sunday could be a future UFC heavyweight champion. Like any heavyweight fight, this one could end with one well-placed strike. If you think a single bomb is going to be the finish, you might want to take the underdog Rozenstruik, but the sportsbooks all think Ngannou has the easy edge… and there’s a reason for that. Choose wisely.