Rozenstruik vs. Almeida Breakdown

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Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Jailton Almeida

It doesn’t get any more striker vs. grappler than this.

*Kron Gracie vs. Charles Jourdain has entered the chat.

Jailton Almeida’s story is a classic rags-to-riches one, starting out as a neglected underdog on the Contender Series, spending four fights on the prelims, then going straight to a main event headlining gig. Don’t feel embarrassed if you were one of the people who Googled the next main event in the middle of last weekend’s and said, "Who the fook is this guy?" when you saw Almeida’s name. That’s exactly what his Pops said the first time Jailton told him to keep track of his Matchbox cars and organize the Sega Genesis cartridges. By the time Jailton was in middle school, Pops was writing book reports and making shoebox dioramas. Since day one, Jailton’s parents knew he was different; he was shooting double legs before he could walk and locking up rear-nakeds before he could wipe his naked rear. Jailton is an urban legend, the glowing red eyes in the boogey man’s closet, the knife-wielding madman waiting for Freddy to fall asleep, and after Saturday night, you’ll know who the fook he is.

Almeida’s introduction to the masses will come against an infamous character, one of the most perplexing fighters in the promotion, Jairzinho Rozenstuik. Yes, it’s that time of year again; The Taraja people of Indonesia have exhumed Jairzinho Rozenastruik and dressed him in a pair of fight shorts and four-ounce gloves. The Toraja call the ritual ‘Ma’nene, when living relatives excavate their dead loved ones, dress them up, and parade them around town with blunts and 40s in their hands. It’s like Dia De Los Muertos but on gas station steroids. Translated into English, it would be the equivalent of a Weekend At Bernie's EDM festival, a bunch of corpses complete with pacifiers in their mouths and glow sticks in their hands dub stepping as the homies play the part of Geppetto, pulling all the strings. There's pretty much no difference between a propped-up corpse and Jairzinho Rozenstruik for nointey-five percent of the time Rozenstruik is in the Octagon. But that other five percent is the reason Rozenstruik will be fighting in his fourth main event.

Jailton Almeida is one of those special ground fighters, like a Chimaev or Khabib. His highlight reel looks like a Nat Geo Sahara Desert documentary when they film alligators dragging wildebeests underwater at the watering hole. Or when they use a time-lapse camera to film a boa constrictor swallowing and digesting a man whole. Almeida’s top control might be the best in the promotion, considering the size of the men he’s able to control. Once he gets you down, there’s little hope for your survival; the community holds candlelight vigils and starts GoFundMe’s. Every Almeida fight starts the same way, with a snap kick up the middle followed by a power double-leg. He doesn’t spend any time pretending he’s something he’s not. Almeida won’t strike up a long-distance relationship posing as a striker, only to find out five years later when you finally meet face to face that he’s a wrestler. As soon as the bell rings, Almeida will try to get the fight to the mat.

Body locks and heavy hips are the keys to Almeida’s wrestling. Once his hands are locked, he won’t let go or stop trying to drag and throw you to the mat. When he gets the top position, he uses his hips to anchor the opponent to the mat, which makes it nearly impossible to create enough space to force a scramble. He uses precise intermittent ground and pound to create damage while maintaining control and opening avenues to advance position. Almeida is 18-2 with seven TKO/KOs and eleven subs. All eleven subs are rear-naked chokes; he constantly threatens with arm triangles to bait opponents into exposing their backs when they defend it.

Almeida’s major malfunction is his striking. It’s hard to gauge his striking because he doesn’t spend much time on the feet. He throws heavy, wide hands while rushing forward to close the distance. Even in limited exchanges in the Octagon, he has been clipped and shown some massive defensive holes. I’m not saying he’s Kron Gracie on the feet, but when the day comes that he can’t relocate the fight, he will struggle. The key against Rozenstruik will be setting up his takedowns with basic combinations. He doesn’t want to telegraph his level changes and end up like Curtis Blaydes against Derrick Lewis, face down on the mat from a counter uppercut.

Jairzinho Rozenstuik was a highly accomplished kickboxer with a 76-8 record before transitioning to MMA. He’s a passive-aggressive striker; most of the time he’s passive, and rarely, he’s aggressive. The athletic commission allows Rozenstuik to wear spikes on his head during fights so birds won’t land and defecate on him. But when all the stars in the Milky Way align, and Rozenstruik lets his hands go, you can see his technical ability. He can put together crisp hand and kick combos and use short chaotic blitzes, consisting of wild overhands and hooks, to create fight-ending sequences in the blink of an eye. No one goes from 100 to 0 quicker than Phil Hawes and from 0 to 100 quicker than Jairzinho Rozenstruik. It’s almost like he tries to lull you to sleep with inactivity before exploding on you. In his last bout against Chris Daukaus, Rozenstruik appeared to turn over a new leaf and came out the gate throwing bombs. But was that the new Bigi Boy, or was that just the result of a lack of respect for an inferior opponent?

You need three things when you’re a striker facing a wrestler: Lateral movement, distance, and up-the-middle attacks. Rozenstruik isn’t very good at two of those: lateral movement and maintaining distance. He’s a flatfooted plodding striker, and he doesn’t use his jab enough to control the pocket. But he can throw uppercuts, knees, and snap kicks. Almeida doesn’t use feints or intricate pocket entries; everything is straightforward, so Rozenstruik can sit on the level changes and throw counters on Almeida’s first movements. Rozenstruik has to fight desperately, like his life is in danger and stay on his feet. Once his ass hits the mat, he isn’t getting back up until the round ends or the ref waves him off.

Almeida will be a massive (-550) favorite, and Rozenstuik will be the (+400) dog. Can Rozenstruik win this fight? Yes. He can KO anybody on earth; he has true Dim Mak touch of death power in his hands. He just has to let them go. I wouldn’t even bother defending takedowns if I were him; I’d just time some bombs and try to catch Almeida shooting in. For his career, Rozenstruik is 13-4 with twelve TKO/KOs; he’s the definition of a finisher, and his power can dig him out of any hole, even the crater created by the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. The play for both of these guys is an early finish. An Almeida TKO/KO will return (+200) and a submission (-105). And a Rozenstruik TKO/KO will return (+500). The three-fight main event winning streak ended last weekend when Aljamain Sterling eked out the Triple Champ. Here’s to a new streak: Jailton Almeida via rear-naked choke, round one.

Anthony Smith vs. Johnny Walker

This card is already looking better than last weekend’s PPV. This one right here is an absolute banger and should probably be the main event next week. Anthony Smith has over fifty career MMA bouts and is closing in on forty-career dubs. And Johnny "Darko" Walker is a Ringling Brothers circus freak put on display between the bearded woman and lobster boy. Walker is a trailblazer who paved the way for future freaks such as Michel Pereira to make a living as prize fighters. As his name would suggest, Johnny Walker fights usually end with him or his opponent failing in-cage sobriety tests and being thrown in paddy wagons. This fight can’t go the distance. It’s literally impossible, and I’m literally shaking thinking about it.

After fifty-three career fights, it’s time Anthony Smith fully embraces his nickname "Lionheart" and comes out rocking the black singlet like Van Damme when Van Damme fought that Capoeira guy in the swimming pool. Do you think anyone wants a roundhouse kick to the face while he’s wearing those bad boys? Of all the "kill-or-be-killed" fighters in the UFC, Smith might be the Webster definition. In thirty-six career dubs, he has thirty-three finishes, and in seventeen career L’s, he was finished fourteen times. And he averages three significant strikes landed per minute while absorbing nearly four and a half. He has "Get-Or-Get-Got" tatted across the belly.

Lionheart has multiple specialties; he’s an underrated striker and a dangerous submission threat from his back. Against Johnny Walker, Smith will be the more traditional striker, and just a couple of fights ago, I would have said the better grappler, but now I’m not so sure. I may have been sleeping on Walker’s Jiu-Jitsu. On the feet, Smith uses both stances and has power in both rear hands. When Smith is under fire, he uses back pivot check hooks to retreat while staying in the pocket simultaneously. He often clips people on the way in and finishes them with nasty three-quarters fastballs from either hand. The key in the stand-up for Smith will be leg kicks. He rendered Jimmy Crute’s leg impotent in the first round of their fight, which ended between rounds when Jimmy’s leg couldn’t rise to the occasion and answer the bell. Walker's game is being wild and unpredictable by throwing spinning and flying shit Willy Nilly. Attacking his legs is the best way to sap some of his explosiveness. When Walker fought Thiago Santos, we found out Walker doesn’t thrive in controlled technical kickboxing matches.

There’s no telling what Johnny Walker will do in the cage at any given moment. He could Guile Flash Kick you or Ong Bak flying knee you from across the cage on some Broadway hanging-from-a-guy-wire-special-effect type-ish. And when he’s not doing the KO’ing, he’s getting KO’d. Walker’s major malfunction is similar to Tony Ferguson’s. Neither fighter has a fundamental base to return to when all the theatrics fail. Walker lacks the ability to sit behind a jab or create angles with his footwork and subsequently struggles when the fight slows down to a traditional pace. I compare him to Michel Pereira, but unlike Pereira, Walker almost exclusively relies on flashy techniques on the feet. Walker is a freestyler like Biggie on the corner and needs to create chaos and wild exchanges. Thinking about it now, I don’t even know how he wins fights. He just does. The bell rings, shit happens, and he gets his hand raised. It’s hard to prepare for a Johnny Walker fight because there’s no rhythm or flow; you just have to wing it, fly by the seat of your pants.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Walker attempts to take down Anthony Smith. Smith's takedown defense is forty-eight percent for his career, and even though he’s a submission threat, he’s just as likely to get grounded and pounded out as he is to submit you. Smith’s kryptonite is good strikers from the top position. You can nullify his submissions by being active and dealing damage. Walker is coming off two straight dubs and a destruction of Paul Craig. Craig latched on to a sloppy single-leg in the first round, and Walker beat him with hammer fists like Craig peed on the rug. Walker is every bit the finisher that Smith is; for his career, Walker is 20-7 with noineteen finishes, including sixteen TKO/KOs.

This one is basically a Vegas pick ‘em with Smith returning (-105) and Walker returning (-115). The play for both is an early finish, and Fantasy-wise, one will leave you Fantasy points famished. This one won’t last long enough to compile any striking stats, and the loser will likely offer up a nothing burger with cheese. A Smith TKO/KO will return (+300) and a submission (+400). And a Walker TKO/KO will return (+150), and a submission (+900). I have no idea who wins this. Lately, these fights have been impossible to pick. Johnny Walker via TKO, round one. On wax. I just don’t trust Anthony Smith.

Daniel Rodriguez vs. Ian Garry

Time to find out if your dog is a cat. Ian Garry is a highly touted prospect with crispy striking but has yet to face a true cold-blooded killer in his eleven-fight career. Everyone wants to run with the big dogs until the big dogs get to barking and biting asses. Daniel Rodriguez is definitely a dog that will get hold of that ass and won’t let go until he’s hit with a couple tranquilizing darts. Bust out the catch poles and Hannibal Lecter muzzles; this one should bring out the dog in everyone who watches it.

I can’t explain how I feel about Ian Garry. To say the least, I’m just not sold... yet. Here are some of the notes I took while watching his scraps:

Style is like waiting room music. He’s too aesthetic. Like a Cali burrito without hot sauce. Where’s the hots sauce? He’s missing the hot sauce, that shit that’s gonna burn ya ass, literally. Bland like artificial sweetener.

I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but I thought I’d give you a peek behind the curtain. Ian Garry needs five-star accommodations when he fights. He needs everything to be controlled and calm, and his fights almost seem like sparring sessions. This seems like a sport to him. And fighting isn’t a sport. He looks too often like he’s hitting pads and not fighting. Everything he does is technically pleasing to the eye; he has crispy, clean hands with complimentary round kicks and sneaky up-the-middle teeps. He uses his jab well to pepper from the outside to draw out forward pressure and uses a slide-back counter right hand as he exits. But he lacks movement. Garry rarely moves his head off the centerline and navigates around the Octagon like an original NES, in 8-bit, two-dimensionally forward and backward.

His major malfunction is that he is so technical that it stifles his creativity; he fights in a mental box and becomes predictable. In every walk of life, you have to think outside the box. This fight against DRod will bring out the dog in him if it’s in there and force him to find a flow state and feel his attacks rather than plot them out as he goes along. That being said, he will be the far more technical striker against DRod, and his quick straight punches should be a big advantage against DRod’s wide-looping shots. Garry is 11-0 for his career with six TKO/KOs and one sub, including 4-0 in the UFC with two TKO/KO finishes.

Daniel Rodriguez is the second coming of Chris Leben. All my day-ones know who I’m talking about. Leben was a Night of the Living Dead striker, who would stumble around the cage like a zombie while unloading nuclear left hands. Rodriguez is the same kind of shambling awkward southpaw with lights out power in his left hand. He won’t wow you with technical skills, fancy footwork and Tik Tok showy combinations, but he’ll crack your ass real nice, real fookin’ proper. This is a perfect matchup for DRod because he won’t have to worry about defending takedowns and can let his hands go more. Unlike Garry, we know DRod has that dog in him. This will be two hundred thread count sheets versus five thousand thread count Egyptian silk. DRod isn’t tear-able or rip-able; he’s rough, rugged, and raw, and if Garry comes in halfway crookin’, he might get ran over.

The key for Drod will be his jab. He will need to double and triple his jab to close the distance. Garry likes to exit the pocket and counter on first movements, and DRod will need the second and third jab (and feints) to cover the extra distance and catch Garry before he counters. He has to be careful not to wade into the pocket behind wide hooks, or he’ll get beat down the middle on his way in. His hands have to lead his feet and not the other way around. Also, as should be standard in every fight, DRod needs to attack the legs. Garry doesn’t like to switch stances and is a strict orthodox fighter. DRod has to beat up Garry’s lead leg and force him to decide between amputation or going southpaw.

Ian Garry will be the (-260) dog, and DRod will be the (+210) dog. Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out! Bust out the Piso Mojado signs; DRod will be an open hydrant flooding your block with value. It’s been three fights since we’ve seen the killer DRod show up and show out. His aggressiveness has been subpar in recent bouts, as he has faced guys who wanted to take him down. I don’t know if that is in Garry’s game plan. I think we’ll see DRod unload his left hand more and take more risks. Garry was dropped in the first round of his last bout against Song Kenan; if he eats a clean one from DRod, he won’t get back up. I also think DRod will be the slightly better finishing threat. Fantasy-wise, both are high-output strikers. DRod averages nearly seven and a half strikes landed per minute, and Garry averages over six and a half. And Garry has topped over one hundred strikes in his last two bouts. A Garry TKO/KO will return (+200), and a DRod TKO/KO will return (+700). I’m going to go out on a limb on this one; fook it! Plus, that Ian Garry ankle tat worries me. Daniel Rodriguez via TKO, round three. Wax on, wax off.

Tim Means vs. Alex Morono

We have an OG vs. a future OG matchup right here. Tim Means represents the Breaking Bad State, New Mexico, and you always have to watch out for them 5-0-5 boys. Means is an alternate universe Jesse Pinkman who traded his yellow hazmat suit for a pair of fight shorts. And Alex Morono is one of the deepest undercover savages around. The US government disavows any knowledge of his existence. He’s a Tom Clancy Splinter Cell savage. This should be a sneaky good fight and might be one of the final times we see the veteran’s veteran Tim Means in the Octagon.

This will be Tim Means's forty-noineth MMA bout and twenty-seventh in the UFC. He is an all-around crafty fighter with a Castor Troy jab; he’s surgical with that bish. He can give you a facelift, a tummy tuck, or take your face... off. Means can eat a peach for hours and takes his time peppering opponents from the outside, constantly touching them and eliciting provoked attacks that he can anticipate and counter. Tim is good at using volume with half-power shots to land at a high rate and set up his power punches. But Means has negative head movement and a squared stance that makes him a sitting duck defensively. He has also lost a step; he has economy thirty-day shipped from India hand speed now that makes it difficult to close the distance when he’s getting the worse of the striking.

Tim Means should look to get this fight to the mat. He will have to cut off the cage and trap Morono to initiate the clinch. We don’t see Morono on his back... ever. People take one look at him and laugh like Charlie Murphy as if they’re just going to walk thru him and never bother to take him down. Means needs to test Morono’s ground game because Morono is a sneaky good striker, and I don’t think Means can hang with him for fifteen minutes. Fantasy-wise, Means will be on the clearance rack by the restrooms with more stickers stacked on top of each other than the license plate on a ‘64 box Chevy. At the end of this one, he might end up at the top of a jalopy heap with Wall-E poking and prodding at him. At most, Means will be in the fifty to sixty significant strikes range, and he hasn’t finished a fight in his last six bouts, dating back to 2019.

I’ll admit, I used to think I could beat Alex Morono. Now I know that was just the Maui Wowie talking. After his last bout against Santiago Ponzinibio, I don’t think anyone will ever take him lightly again. He was two minutes away from pitching a perfect game when the Ponz hit a walk-off game-winner. Morono had Ponzinibio rocked multiple times in that fight and was, dare I say it, out-classing Ponzinibio on the feet. But in the end he lost, and it was like tripping on the final step of Machu Picchu and tumbling all the way down. The Ponz had Morono looking like Hunter S. Thompson in a Vegas casino lobby.

But old shit’s stoppin’, and new shit’s poppin’. Morono has an odd cadence, a perpetual herky-jerky bounce that throws his opponents off. He has strict day-one fundamental combinations, following hands with kicks and vice versa, and he throws from protractor angles. He has that Marilyn Manson flexibility and nearly kisses his feet when he ducks down and launches his overhand right. It’s a twelve-to-six overhand that lands on top of the head like a Three Stooges bonk. But his best attribute is that he stands in the pocket when under fire like an elite QB and doesn’t give up ground without taking a pound of flesh with him. He’s a slick little counter puncher who finds ways to hit you when you’re least expecting to get hit.

Morono will be the (-230) favorite, and Tim Means will be the. (+190) dog. Morono is the higher-output striker and a bigger finishing threat. Tim Means will have to get this fight to the mat and hope to control the top position to salt away some of the clock. But I just don’t see him finding a way to finish Alex Morono. But this is the fight game, and anything can happen. Give the Deep State savage Alex Morono via TKO, round three.

Court McGee vs. Matt Brown

This is a flashback matchup between two veterans with capes on, super veterans. Matt Brown fought on the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter and debuted in 2007, and Court McGee fought and won season eleven and debuted in 2010. Brown is the headlining act of the OG Fisticuffs Tour, which is nearing its final leg after making stops in Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas, and Ohio, where he fought Carlos Condit, Dheigo Lima, and Bryan Barberena, respectively. The next stop is North Carolina and a matchup over a decade in the making against an opponent who battled and subdued addiction, a victory as impressive as any ever witnessed inside the Octagon. Court McGee might not be the best opponent Matt Brown has ever faced, but he might be the toughest.

Matt Brown has a hunger for violence that hasn’t been satiated for sixteen years and counting. In that time, some of his physical attributes have diminished, but his ass-kicking instincts remain honed to a razor edge. Even in his younger years, Matt Brown handed out grown man ass whoopin’s. Gran Tarino ass whoopin's. One day Matt Brown will be in a nursing home, grabbing collar ties and delivering elbows. When the time comes, he’ll probably fight the bouncer outside the pearly gates. Clinch warfare; that’s Matt Brown’s style. He likes to fight in close quarters so he can look in your eyes and make it real intimate when he starts digging knees and uppercuts and bludgeoning with elbows.

What can Brown do for you? His services include schoolyard trips from the clinch with nasty ground and pound from the top and keeping the fight standing at range and chopping the legs. Matt Brown is a master at fighting at any range, but as his hand speed and reactions have slowed, fighting in the clinch allows him to close the gap. The key against Court McGee will be staying on his feet while still being active on the inside. McGee also likes to fight in the clinch but more to look for takedowns, while Matt Brown looks to create damage. Here’s a stat for you: Matt Brown hasn’t won a fight by decision since 2012. For his career, he has fifteen TKO/KOs and six subs in twenty-three career wins. His value will be in creating enough damage to stop McGee late, a feat that has only been accomplished twice in McGee’s career, the most recent coming in his last bout with Jeremiah Wells.

If Court McGee survived the freefall from that Blue Sky without a parachute, what can any man inside a cage possibly do to him? Nothing. If that Walter White didn’t kill him, there isn’t shit you can do to him that can put fear in his heart. This man faced his demons and had the stones to turn his back to them. McGee has long heavy punches on the feet and grinding wrestling and top control on the mat. He lacks hand speed, so his stand-up is easy to overlook, but it’s sneaky good. He has proven he can hold his own against some of the best strikers in the division for over a decade and even has a win over Robert Whittaker, albeit a young welterweight Whittaker.

But McGee’s bread and butter is pushing you up against the cage and dragging you to the mat. While averaging over four and a half significant strikes landed per minute, he also averages nearly two takedowns per fifteen minutes. His game plan against Matt Brown will be to close the distance behind some heavy 1-2s and drag Brown to the mat. Brown might also try to do the same; he averages over one and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes and scored five in his last bout against Bryan Barberena. McGee and Brown have spotty takedown defense and get-ups; Brown has a sixty-four career takedown defense, and McGee sixty-noine. This one could be decided on who can dictate the top position.

Court McGee will be the sizeable (-220) favorite, and Matt Brown will be the (+180) Cujo junkyard dog. A big knock against McGee is his lack of finishes. He is 21-11 for his career with only five TKO/KOs and five subs. Brown will be the better finishing threat because he uses more weapons and creates more damage; his opponent’s damage charts always look like a SnapCrap of San Francisco by the end of the first round. Fantasy point-wise, striking stats may come at a premium, as the fight will likely be a grinding affair in the clinch and on the mat. But Matt Brown will be dripping with Fantasy value as a low-tier roster option with a high upside. Another complete toss-up. Court McGee via decision. Put that ish on wax.


Highlighted Matchup

Carlos Ulberg vs. Ihor Potieria

This one is a crunchy little stand-up banger in which the entirety of it will likely fit on a Tik Tok video. Carlos Ulberg is a promising striker riding a three-fight dub streak after catching the speed wobbles in his debut against Kennedy Nzechukwu. He had Kennedy crawling out the back of the limo in the first round, only to get Jack Ruby’d in the second. Ulberg gassed heavily in that fight after failing to finish Nzechukwu but has since made adjustments to his pacing. Or so we think; he ended both of his last two bouts in the first round via TKO/KO.

Ihor Potieria is an aggressive striker who fights like an exempt employee who doesn’t get paid hourly. After his debut against Negumereanu, Potieria rebounded from a loss with a first-round TKO of Shogun Rua. But that wasn’t the 2000’s Shogun Rua; that was a forty-one-year-old Shogun who had one ass cheek out the door, already planning his retirement. This will be a massive step up in competition for Potieria and will put him on the map if he can beat Ulberg.

They say MMA math never adds up, but if you show your work, you can still get partial credit. Ihor Potieria was TKO’d in his debut against Nicolae Negumereanu, and in his last bout, Carlos Ulberg KO’d Negumereanu in just over three minutes. Can you take anything away from that? Well, Ulberg dealt with Negumereanu’s heavy pressure better than Potieria did because Ulberg uses range better and puts combinations together better. Ulberg also has excellent kicks, and Ihor is more of a boxer who relies almost exclusively on his hands. Where Potieria will have an advantage is in experience; he has noineteen dubs in twenty-two career fights, while Ulberg is only 7-1.

Ulberg will be the heavy (-450) favorite, and Potieria will be the (+350) shelter dog looking for its forever home. I’ll say this: Ulberg can get got on the feet. He doesn’t deal with pressure very well, and that is Potieria’s best weapon. Potieria fast-plays fights; he throws doodie against the wall to determine if he's getting the recommended daily fiber intake. This is the old hammer vs. the nail adage; Ulberg likes to be the hammer and doesn’t deal with being the nail very well. Potieria will have a high upside as a basement Fantasy pick because his path to victory is a finish, and he knows it. He has noine career TKO/KOs and six subs; he’s a finisher who can put Ulberg on his heels, at least in the early minutes. The play for Ulberg is in the method of victory. Five of his seven career dubs were TKO/KOs, including his last two bouts. Carlos Ulberg via TKO, round two.

Thanks, for reading, homies! Put your picks on wax and put one in the air!

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