Alistair Overeem was slated to face Walt Harris in the main event of UFC on ESPN 7 Saturday night and right about now, he probably wishes his opponent never changed.
Harris, who has been reeling from the tragic abduction and murder of his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard, was replaced by unbeaten contender Jairzinho Rozenstruik. One of the sport’s hottest talents in a heavyweight division in desperate need of new blood, Rozenstruik cashed in on being a late addition to the card, which was held at Capital Arena in Washington, D.C.
Overeem (45-18) was doing well throughout most of their five-round heavyweight encounter, but Rozenstruik’s power bailed him out and the Surinamese fighter won via knockout with only four seconds remaining in the fight. Rozenstruik (10-0) was patient inside the Octagon and though he was losing on the cards late in their duel, he remained diligent in his pursuit of victory.
“I never give up,” he said after his triumph. “I work hard. I tried to find an opening, couldn’t find it for much of the fight, but I found it in the last one and there you go.”
A man who has fought a who’s-who of MMA, Overeem captured world titles for Strikeforce and Dream as well as winning the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix. “The Demolition Man” was controlling the pace of the fight and teaching the Surinamese fighter a lesson in experience. However, Rozenstruik waited for the perfect moment to strike. When he did, the contest was over.
“His game plan didn’t surprise me,” he said. “He used to grapple quite a bit. He’s an intelligent fighter and knows how to fight, but I found a way to win. I knew he was ahead [on points] and that I had to work harder to get the win. I had to find a way and that’s what I did.”
Rozenstruik backed Overeem toward the cage and then unleashed a deadly right hand to the face. The punch dropped Overeem and he was out. Rozenstruik never bothered to unload follow-up punches because he knew his foe was finished. Afterward, Rozenstruik wasted no time in trying to set up his next opponent.
“I’d like Francis [Ngannou] in March or April,” he revealed. “That would be perfect. I’m in.”