UFC on ESPN 7 Report: Jairzinho Rozenstruik knocks out Alistair Overeem
By: Eric Marcotte
Originally, this card was to be headlined by Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem. Harris withdrew from the card in early November due to the disappearance of his stepdaughter, Aniah Blanchard. Tragically, Blanchard’s body was discovered later in the month. My sincerest condolences go out to all of Blanchard’s family and friends.
On Saturday night the UFC returned to the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., for the first time since 2011, with their seventh card on ESPN. The event was headlined by a heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Overeem had quietly rebounded from his devastating losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, with a pair of first-round stoppages over Sergei Pavlovich and Aleksei Oleinik. A third consecutive win would likely move Overeem right back into contender status. Rozenstruik had been undefeated thus far into his MMA career and had won his first three fights in the UFC by knockout. A win over an established name such as Alistair Overeem would likely catapult him towards a top-five opponent. In the co-main event, Cynthia Calvillo faced the undefeated Marina Rodriguez.
Jon Anik led the commentary team for the night, alongside Paul Felder and Daniel Cormier. Performance bonuses were awarded to Makhmud Muradov and Bryce Mitchell. Fight of the Night bonuses went out to Rob Font and Ricky Simon. The reported attendance for the event was 10,816 and the gate was $932,593.20.
*Makhmud Muradov def. Trevor Smith by KO at 4:09 of Round 3
*Virna Jandiroba def. Mallory Martin by rear-naked choke at 1:16 of Round 2
*Joe Solecki def. Matt Wiman by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
*Bryce Mitchell def. Matt Sayles by twister at 4:20 of Round 1
*Billy Quarantillo def. Jacob Kilburn by triangle choke at 3:18 of Round 2
*Tim Means def. Thiago Alves by guillotine choke at 2:38 of Round 1
*Rob Font def. Ricky Simon by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Cody Stamann vs. Song Yadong ends in a majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
*Aspen Ladd def. Yana Kunitskaya by TKO at 0:33 of Round 3
*Ben Rothwell def. Stefan Struve by TKO at 4:57 of Round 2
* Marina Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo ends in a majority draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
*Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Alistair Overeem by KO at 4:56 of Round 5
MAKHMUD MURADOV (23-6, 185.3) VS TREVOR SMITH (15-9, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Muradov appeared to stun Smith with a short right hand about a minute and a half into the first round. Muradov’s jab was very effective in the first, and he had no issues avoiding Smith’s lunging right hands. He chipped away at the body of Smith throughout the round and ended with a beautiful jumping crane kick that connected cleanly. Clear 10-9 for Makhmud Muradov.
Smith landed flush with a heavy right hand, that was his best moment of the fight thus far. This round was closer than the first, but Muradov continued to control the fight with his jab and bodywork. By the end of the second, it was apparent that Smith was feeling the effects of those body shots. Muradov caught one of Smith’s kicks, took him to the ground and quickly sunk in a rear-naked choke, but there was not enough time in the round to get the finish. 20-18 Muradov.
This round was more of the same. Muradov hurt Smith with a body shot and hurt him again with a right hook to the head later in the round. Muradov caught Smith with one more shot to the body and changed levels with a 1-2 up top, and the right hand just crumpled Smith, sending his mouthpiece flying to the cage.
WINNER: Makhmud Muradov by KO at 4:09 of Round 3
This was a vicious knockout following a dominant performance from Makhmud Muradov. He continuously went to the body throughout the fight, and when he went back up top, he picked up a true highlight-reel finish. Muradov has won his last thirteen fights and is now 2-0 in the UFC.
This card was dedicated to the memory of former ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, who passed away in 2013 after a long fight with cancer. Throughout the card, the UFC aired video packages of various fighters discussing people close to them fighting cancer, and commentators Paul Felder and Daniel Cormier shared emotional stories regarding their respective fathers who battled with cancer, at the beginning of the broadcast.
MALLORY MARTIN (6-2, 115.5) VS VIRNA JANDIROBA (14-1, 115) – STRAWWEIGHT
Jandiroba snatched a quick double leg, and Martin responded with a guillotine attempt from her back early in the first. Jandiroba escaped and transitioned to an arm triangle as Martin tried to readjust. It looked like the submission was locked it, but Martin fought out of it and they returned to the feet. Jandiroba completed another takedown, and Martin would try for the guillotine one more time in the round. Jandiroba escaped once more and ended the round on top. Tough round to score, but I thought the arm triangle attempt was so close, I gave the round to Jandiroba.
Once more Jandiroba succeeded on her double leg takedown to start the round. This time, she quickly seized the back of Martin, sunk in the rear-naked choke, and finished the fight.
WINNER: Virna Jandiroba by rear-naked choke at 1:16 of Round 2
Martin exhausted a great deal of energy on those guillotine attempts. Jandiroba was the more seasoned fighter, which was apparent during their grappling exchanges, and improves to 15-1 with this win. This was her twelfth professional win by submission.
JOE SOLECKI (8-2, 155.6) VS MATT WIMAN (16-8, 155.3) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Solecki caught a kick within the first minute and took Wiman to the ground. Solecki had significant success with ground and pound strikes. He started really unleashing with a flurry of brutal ground and pound and took Wiman’s back. He didn’t find the choke but soon returned to the ground and pound attack. Wiman managed to survive the round. I scored the first round 10-8 for Solecki.
Another takedown to start the second for Solecki. More strong ground and pound. They were stood up by referee Fernando Yamasaki after Solecki briefly paused his offense. Wiman looked extremely stiff on the feet and was taken down once more by Solecki to end the round. 20-17 Solecki.
Solecki started the third with another successful takedown. This round was more of the same. 30-26 Solecki.
WINNER: Joe Solecki by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
This was a very one-sided fight. Cormier continuously pointed out how square Wiman’s stance was, and he really didn’t have an answer to anything Solecki attempted. This was Solecki’s first fight in the UFC. After the fight, Solecki told Wiman that he just put him out of a job, in response to Wiman’s trash talk in the last ten seconds of the fight.
MATT SAYLES (8-2, 148.5) VS BRYCE MITCHELL (11-0, 145.3) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Sayles missed weight by 2.5lbs. He was fined 20% of his purse.
Mitchell succeeded on a single leg attempt early. He transitioned to side control and then worked his way into full mount. He transitioned between full mount and Sayles back multiple times, showcasing really high-level grappling. When Mitchell took Sayles back for the final time, he locked in a twister(!) and forced Mitchell to submit in the first round.
WINNER: Bryce Mitchell by twister at 4:20 of Round 1
Wow. This was only the second submission via twister in UFC history. A spectacular finish by Bryce Mitchell, who showed off some impressive grappling ability prior to the finish as well. In his post-fight interview, he continued his campaign for camo shorts and told United States President Donald Trump that he is willing to beat up his 2020 opposition. Mitchell is now 3-0 in the UFC.
BILLY QUARANTILLO (12-2, 145.2) VS JACOB KILBURN (8-2, 145.3) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Quarantillo walked out to Hulk Hogan’s Real American theme, much to Cormier’s approval.
Quarantillo got the fight to the ground early, and almost finished Kilburn with a choke quickly. Kilburn survived that exchange, but Quarantillo moved into full mount and started throwing down a vicious barrage of strikes. Quarantillo had over fifty strikes landed in the first three minutes. He took Kilburn’s back and continued to look for the rear-naked choke. Kilburn made it out of the round, but this was pure domination from Quarantillo. I scored the first round 10-8 in his favor.
The second round began exactly the same as the first. Quarantillo took Kilburn down and continued to dominate him with brutal ground and pound. Quarantillo attempted an armbar, transitioned to a triangle choke, and won by submission.
WINNER: Billy Quarantillo by triangle choke at 3:18 of Round 2
This fight was pure domination from Quarantillo. This seemed to be a complete mismatch on the ground. Quarantillo looked fantastic, and this was a great start to his UFC tenure.
THIAGO ALVES (23-13, 171) VS TIM MEANS (28-11-1, 1 NC, 136) – WELTERWEIGHT
The fighters exchanged kicks to the body. Means had a massive imprint of Alves’s foot on the side of his torso from that first kick. Means connected with a spinning elbow and a pair of body shots. Means knocked Alves down with a straight left, and then swarmed him with strikes. Means locked in a guillotine choke, and a hurt Thiago Alves quickly submitted.
WINNER: Tim Means by guillotine choke at 2:38 of Round 1
A fun fight for the short amount of time it lasted. Tim Means was very aggressive here, and the approach paid off with a quick finish. Means really needed this win after going 1-3 in his last four fights. This was Means’ 11th win in the UFC. Alves has lost 6 of his last 8 fights.
ROB FONT (16-4, 135.1) VS RICKY SIMON (15-2, 135.2) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Font connected with a clean right hand a well-timed double leg to start the fight. Simon quickly returned to his feet but ate a big uppercut. Simon exploded with a left hand and flying knee, and then took Font down against the cage. Font worked back to his feet and they resumed the fight on the feet. Font backed Simon up with a combination of punches. Font went for a spinning elbow and Simon took him right back to the ground. This was a great round, and I scored it 10-9 for Simon.
Font was working the jab in the second. He knocked Simon’s head back on a particularly powerful one. Font landed a front kick and another combination of punches that hurt Simon. Simon ate a hard right from Font. This was a great round for Font. With a minute remaining, Simon completed another takedown against the cage that Font worked his way up from. 19-19 going into the third.
Simon hurt Font with a left hand to the body and secured another takedown. Font escaped from the ground one more time. Font connected with another strong uppercut. This round was very close, and both men had their moments on the feet. I narrowly scored this round for Rob Font. I scored the entirety of the fight 29-28 Font.
WINNER: Rob Font by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
This was a great fight. Both men fought at a high pace for three rounds, hurt the other man multiple times, and gave great accounts of their abilities in the talent stacked 135lbs men’s division. This was a really close fight, but I thought Font’s jab really started to control the action after the first round. Nonetheless, I thought this increased the stock of both men. Font is now 7-3 in the UFC
CODY STAMANN (18-2, 135.2) VS SONG YADONG (15-4, 1 NC, 135.2) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Yadong was finding success. Stamann took Yadong down, and Yadong attempted a guillotine in response. Yadong threw a hard knee that connected clean into the head of Stamann, who was a grounded opponent. Yadong lost the position and had a point deducted. Stamann completed another takedown to end the round. I had this round 9-9 with the point deduction taken into account.
Yadong defended an early takedown attempt from Stamann. They exchanged strikes on the feet. Yadong landed a solid kick to the leg. Stamann took Yadong down once more, and Yadong quickly got back to his feet. It didn’t take long for Stamann to bring the fight back to the ground, and Stamann did a great job throughout the fight of halting Yadong’s momentum with level changes. Yadong worked his way on top with thirty seconds remaining. 19-18 Stamann on my scorecard.
Another successful takedown from Stamann. He spent the entirety of the round in a dominant position. He finished the round with strong ground and pound strikes. I scored the fight 29-27 Stamann, but I would not argue with giving Stamann a 10-8 for the third round.
Result: Majority Draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
I was writing up my praise for Stamann’s win when the result was announced. Stamann and the commentators were both stunned by the result. Looking back, I can see the argument for Song Yadong winning the first two rounds, but still, this was really a best-case-scenario result for Yadong after that point reduction. I would not mind seeing the UFC run this fight back.
ASPEN LADD (8-1, 136) VS YANA KUNITSKAYA (12-4, 135.1) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Referee Keith Peterson separated the fighters from the cage after Kunitskaya grabbed the fence multiple times in the clinch. They returned to the position not long after, with Kunitskaya pressing Ladd against the cage. Ladd took Kunitskaya down with a body lock. Ladd landed a pair of elbows. Ladd took her back and starting throwing down some decent ground and pound strikes (while yelling aggressively). Pretty clear 10-9 round for Aspen Ladd.
Kunitskaya defended a takedown attempt. Kunitskaya was able to control Ladd in the clinch but was unable to mount much successful offense in the position. There was a kick to the body from Kunitskaya. Ladd shot for a double leg and brought the fight back to the ground. Ladd was unable to do much with the position. I gave the round to Kunitskaya.
Ladd immediately rushed Kunitskaya and dropped her with a left hook. She threw down vicious strikes to the grounded Kunitskaya until the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Aspen Ladd by TKO at 0:33 of Round 3
For two rounds, this was not a great fight, but Aspen Ladd turned it up and picked up a huge finish in the third. After her sixteen second loss to Germaine de Randamie earlier this year, she needed to a finish like this to rebound and keep her name in title contention. Ladd is now 4-1 in the UFC, with three TKO finishes.
BEN ROTHWELL (36-12, 265.2) VS STEFAN STRUVE (33-11, 265.3) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Struve opened up with a series of kicks to the leg. The fighters wrestled against the cage. Rothwell attempted to take Struve down, but his immense height made it a difficult task. Struve connected with a head kick. Rothwell responded with a hard kick that caught Struve right in the groin. Struve was literally rolling over on the ground in pain for a solid minute or two. Struve was in immense pain. The crowd reaction to Struve continuing the fight at the end of the five minutes was perhaps the loudest of the night. Struve was throwing a lot of kicks, and I thought it won him the round.
Struve continued his kick heavy offense into the second and began mixing in some uppercuts that Rothwell felt. As Struve began to pick up steam with his offense, Rothwell connected with another kick to the groin that floored Struve. One again, Struve was in bad shape after the hard-low blow. A point was taken away from Ben Rothwell by referee Dan Miragliotta. Rothwell appeared to hurt Struve as the fight resumed, Rothwell swarmed him with uppercuts until Struve dropped and won the fight by TKO.
WINNER: Ben Rothwell by TKO at 4:57 of Round 2
Struve probably should have called it a day after the first low blow. Dan Miragliotta seemed to talk Struve into continuing the fight after the second low blow, telling him that he was winning the fight and it would be a no-contest if he could not continue. Struve resumed the fight and got finished almost immediately. Struve appeared to be the better fighter but was clearly compromised by the low blows. Nonetheless, this was a much-needed win for Rothwell, who picked up his first win since 2016 here. After the point deduction, he showcased aggression that he has not really had since his return. In his post-fight interview, Rothwell acknowledged this and stated he will bring that mentality into future fights. To his credit, Struve also looked the best he has in years despite the loss.
MARINA RODRIGUEZ (12-0-1, 115.5) VS CYNTHIA CALVILLO (8-1, 120.5) – STRAWWEIGHT
Calvillo missed weight by 4.5lbs. She was fined 30% of her purse. This was the second time that Calvillo has missed the strawweight limit.
After a couple of minutes of feeling each other out on the feet, Calvillo took Rodriguez down. Rodriguez worked her way back to the feet and briefly hurt Calvillo with an aggressive flurry of strikes. Calvillo brought a halt to Rodriguez’s momentum by pressuring her against the cage. Rodriguez responded with a head kick and a hard knee to the head in the clinch. Calvillo finished the round in top mount following another successful takedown. 10-9 Rodriguez on my scorecard.
This round took place entirely on the feet and Rodriguez continued to control the action with her striking. With about a minute left in the round, she began to attack the body of Calvillo with a series of kicks and knees. Calvillo was clearly hurt here but survived the remainder of the second. 20-18 Rodriguez, going into the final round.
Calvillo brought the fight back to the ground with a double leg to kick off the third and started hunting for a submission. Calvillo started driving elbows into the side of Rodriguez, and then promptly took her back. Calvillo’s ground and pound strikes were really adding up in this round. She worked her way into full mount, and for a moment it looked like referee Fernando Yamasaki was considering stopping the fight, but Rodriguez exploded out and went on the attack in the third round. I thought Rodriguez saved herself from a 10-8 in the last thirty seconds here and scored the fight 29-28 in her favor.
Result: Majority Draw (29-28, 28-28, 28-28)
I thought the decision was fair. Rodriguez excelled on the feet, but when the fight went to the ground it was all Calvillo, who had a dominant third round. Rodriguez is still undefeated in fourteen fights but will have to improve her ground game before facing one of the better wrestlers in the division such as Tatiana Suarez. On the flip-side, Calvillo’s future at 115lbs is very much in question after missing weight for a second time. I believe that a move to 125lbs would benefit her career right now.
ALISTAIR OVEREEM (45-17, 1 NC, 248) VS JAIRZINHO ROZENSTRUIK (9-0, 250.5) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Rozenstruik refused to touch gloves to start the fight.
Overeem took Rozenstruik down fairly easily after a couple of minutes of feeling each other out on the feet. Overeem connected with some short elbows. Rozenstruik did a good job of keeping Overeem from advancing but clearly lost this round.
Overeem engaged Rozenstruik in the clinch against the cage. Rozenstruik defended an attempted body lock from Overeem. Referee Dan Miragliotta broke them up due to inactivity. Rozenstruik partially connected with a hard right hand. Overeem responded with a straight left. Rozenstruik caught Overeem with a couple of hard shots against the cage, and Overeem responded with a pair of kicks to the body. I gave the round to Overeem.
Rozenstruik defended a double-leg attempt from Overeem. Right-hand lands from Overeem. Overeem connected with another hard kick to the body followed by a flush left hand. A strong body lock from Overeem brought Rozenstruik down to the ground. Really hard ground and pound from Overeem to end the round, and I had him up 30-27 on my scorecard.
Overeem continued to find success with the left hand. Rozenstruik let loose with a flurry of strikes as Overeem covered up, but did not appear to be seriously hurt. This sequence repeated, with Rozenstruik incorporating a pair of jumping knees. This was far and away Rozenstruik’s best round thus far, and I gave him the fourth round.
Rozenstruik defended another takedown attempt from Overeem. Overeem found a home for that left hand two more times. Jon Anik stated that this was the first time in his MMA career Overeem has seen the championship rounds, which seems amazing given his lengthy and storied career. Rozenstruik landed a hard-left jab and a right hook with seconds left, and Overeem went down hard. Overeem’s lip exploded Robbie Lawler style.
WINNER: Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO at 4:56 of Round 5
This was not a great fight. Overeem was narrowly winning the majority of the fight but was clearly slowing down in the later rounds, and he got caught with mere seconds remaining (not unlike Korean Zombie against Yair Rodriguez). This was a big win for Rozenstruik, who called out Francis Ngannou in his post-fight interview. He is now 10-0 in his professional career, with 9 wins by knockout.
This is a tough loss for Overeem, who was significantly up on all three judges’ scorecards. His chances of working his way back to a title fight seem unlikely at this point, but he remains a (typically) entertaining fighter who makes a massive amount of money every time he steps into the cage. A fight against Derrick Lewis might make sense for Overeem.