The UFC’s heavyweight division is looking its healthiest for a very long time. Last weekend, two heavyweight prospects in Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus came away with big victories over veterans Andrei Arlovski and Alexey Oleynik, while the main event saw Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes duke it out and make headlines.
That trend continues on Saturday night when two of the most watchable big guys – Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane – square off in the UFC Fight Night 186 main event.
The division is now filled with top talent, experience and intrigue. Champion Stipe Miocic will soon be defending his title against Francis Ngannou for a second time. Jon Jones, a fighter widely considered to be one of the greatest to ever compete in mixed martial arts, will be waiting in the wings for a crack at the winner of that contest as the former UFC light heavyweight champion has officially moved up a weight class.
While Jones was confirmed to be next in line for a shot at the heavyweight championship, Rozenstruik and Gane aren’t far off from being heavily involved in the title picture. Victory for either man could see them in with a shout as Rozenstruik is #4 (recently overtaken by Lewis) and Gane is #7 in the UFC rankings.
A light heavyweight bout between Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka was set to headline this event, but was pulled after Reyes was forced out with injury. As a result, both Rozenstruik and Gane stepped up to make this a five-round contest at the UFC Apex on Saturday night and it’s a an opportunity Suriname’s Rozenstruik is relishing.
“It’s better to have your own card than to fight under somebody else’s card,” ‘Bigi Boy’ said [H/T SuperSport]. “Five rounds is fine with me, it’s the main event so it feels good. Fighting two weeks earlier, two weeks later; it doesn’t matter. I mean I’m in the camp already, I’m already in a little bit of shape, so it wasn’t that hard. It was an easy decision to make.”
Rozenstruik was on the cusp of a UFC heavyweight title shot but endured a first-round knockout loss to Ngannou back in May, 2020. That win saw the Cameroonian earn his rematch with Miocic. As for Rozenstruik, he rebounded with a win over former champion Junior Dos Santos in August to cap off an up-and-down 2020.
However, the kickboxer seems content to earn more Octagon experience before getting near the UFC zenith once again following his first quick ascent up the UFC rankings.
“I’m going to need another fight. I want to be busy, and learn from the best. There’s a lot of fighters that I passed. I just skipped the line because I win my fights. But I’m ready to face everyone,” he added.
On the other side, Gane is just happy to be fighting. “Bon Gamin” is only four fights into his UFC run and has found opponents hard to come by – only competing once since his unanimous decision victory over Tanner Boser in December, 2019.
The unbeaten Frenchman says he hasn’t let that frustration get to him and he has focus squared totally on Rozenstruik and beyond.
“I suck it up, for real. I stay positive and always maintain a good mindset. I stay focused on training and that’s it,” said the former unbeaten Muay Thai fighter, who added: “The people [ranked] ahead of me don’t want to deal with me because I’m young and I don’t have a great deal of experience, so it’s not a good deal for them.”
UFC Fight Night: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane full card
Heavyweight: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane
Light Heavyweight: Nikita Krylov vs. Magomed Ankalaev
Women’s Flyweight: Montana De La Rosa vs. Mayra Bueno Silva
Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera
Women’s Strawweight: Angela Hill vs. Ashley Yoder
Featherweight: Alex Caceres vs. Kevin Croom
Lightweight: Thiago Moisés vs. Alexander Hernandez
Welterweight: Alex Oliveira vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov
Women’s Bantamweight: Sabina Mazo vs. Alexis Davis
Bantamweight: Vince Cachero vs. Ronnie Lawrence
Light Heavyweight: Dustin Jacoby vs. Maxim Grishin