MMA heavyweights are physically captivating human beings. With lumberjack-like physiques, the level of athleticism these men display inside the octagon is astounding. Week after week, fans are introduced to fresh faces showcasing their unique skills under the brightest of lights.
Looking to stamp an exclamation point on a month of heavyweight main events are two of the newest, most thrilling contenders in the division: Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane. Despite just 10 UFC fights between them, Rozenstriuk and Gane have entrenched themselves into a deep top-10, holding a combined record of 9-1.
Rozenstruik burst onto the scene in 2019 with mean intentions, knocking 2 of his first 3 opponents unconscious inside 30 seconds. The 32-year-old has proceeded to reign victorious in 5 of 6 UFC bouts, finishing all by knockout. With measured boxing and crippling power, “Bigi Boy” is a wrecking ball in the striking department. It took just one casual left hook to end Allen Crowder’s night. A right hand tore Alistair Overeem’s lip in half, and he knocked out former champion Junior Dos Santos in less than 2 rounds. Separating opponents from consciousness, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say, is his “speciality.”
Bulldozing his way through the heavyweight rankings is France’s undefeated Ciryl Gane. With 7 wins in as many fights, Gane has shown an incredibly well-rounded skill set. He’s finished 3 wins by knockout, 3 by submission, and is the only unbeaten fighter in the heavyweight top-15. Not bad for a guy who started fighting professionally less than 3 years ago.
With so much potential yet so little experience, it’s hard to gauge where Gane’s ceiling lies. It’s not often that fighters become locked inside the top 10 with only 4 fights in the UFC, but Gane continues to impress against high-level competition. The 30-year-old aced his toughest test, finishing the aforementioned former champion Junior Dos Santos with a vicious elbow at UFC 256, under the bright lights of a pay-per-view, Gane stayed loose, composed, and relentless in his pursuit. All signs lead to a blossoming superstar.
Inside Z’s Corner
Ciryl Gane is undoubtedly the most intriguing contender in the heavyweight division. The MMA Factory product has showcased versatility rarely seen in higher weight classes. Gane fancies a kick-heavy attack, using his tree-trunk limbs to chop legs and crush livers. He incorporates flying knees, spinning attacks, and has plenty of confidence in his ground game. Finishing 2 submissions in his first 4 UFC fights, Gane is lethal in all areas.
Rozenstruik has made his money in the striking realm, with 10 of the Suriname native’s 11 wins coming by way of knockout. Good for third best in the heavyweight division, Rozenstruik’s 3.3 knockdown rate (KD%; 97th percentile) highlights the one-punch power he possesses. But the heavy-handed 32-year-old’s skills lie deeper. Rozenstruik carries an eerie patience through his fights, geared to pounce at the perfect moment. He won’t necessarily overwhelm his opponents with volume, but his surefire spurts bring lethality. Like jimmies on ice cream, Jairzinho incorporates a sweet layer of leg kicks to his game. Consistency in the kicking department is hard to come by at this weight class, yet vital to his success. Challenging an veteran boxer like Junior Dos Santos is dangerous, but the 76-8-1 professional kickboxer Rozenstruik stalled the Brazilian’s forward movement with 20 lead leg kicks, leading to the most impressive victory of his career.
The heavyweight division is heating up, and Rozenstruik and Gane have an opportunity to cement themselves as legitimate threats to the throne. This fight has intrigue in all aspects, but I’m giving the more well-rounded Gane a slight advantage. He lands an average of 28.05 significant strikes to Rozenstruik’s 20.2 per round. In a scenario where he implements high volume and pressure, Rozenstruik will find trouble with the varying angles of Gane’s attacks. The Frenchman has also proven more elusive, absorbing just 9.75 significant strikes per round to Rozenstruik’s 15.5. While the numbers favor Ciryl Gane, Rozenstruik’s explosiveness mustn’t be underlooked. He has the ability to shut one’s lights off in a split second. If he can lure Gane into a wild firefight, a wild finish may be imminent. But with a bigger toolbox and undeniable submission threat, Gane will reign victorious.
Prediction: Gane by decision.