2019 was a breakout year for many fighters, so The Scrap took a look at some of the top promotion’s newcomers who made their debuts this past year.
The heavyweight division in the UFC during 2019 was pretty quiet as the top-five mostly stayed the same. If there’s any division in the UFC that could handle a logjam at the top, it’s heavyweight, since most of the top contenders already have had a shot at the title.
Although the top 10 is still peppered with seasoned veterans, Walt Harris moved up four spaces over the year, and Blagoy Ivanov, Augusto Sakai, and Sergei Pavlovich all debuted in the rankings. However, nobody made a splash like Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik, who brought life into a division that needed it most.
Rozenstruik made his debut in February, and four fights later, he is a top-five heavyweight. He made the biggest move in the division rankings and had one of the best years in MMA across all weight classes. The big man from Suriname, scored a head-kick KO, two first-round KOs, and a comeback of the year with a win over Alistair Overeem. Alistair Overeem’s lip will forever be a meme throughout social media in years to come.
— Streetfight Bancho (@streetfitebanch) December 8, 2019
Rozenstruik, bigger than the other kids and wasn’t scared to get physical, played soccer and basketball growing up in Suriname, a small country on the Eastern coast of South America. One time after a fight on the soccer field, a coach told him that if he wanted to throw punches, he could do so in a nearby kickboxing gym. He was 17 years old at the time and he took his advice.
Jairzinho said prior to the Overeem fight, “I’ve had an amazing year, yes. Does it surprise me? No. I feel like life has prepared me for these moments. And this is one of the moments I have to show myself, to bring myself up there. This is a big thing for me and my country and my team.”
The heavyweight division is once again in a holding pattern as the UFC is waiting to schedule the trilogy fight between champion Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. That being said “Bigi Boy” is not resting on his laurels as he has signed up to fight the number one contender Francis Ngannou on March 28, 2020. Rozenstruik is more interested in Ngannou than a title shot.
“I really want this fight against this big, scary guy Francis Ngannou,” Rozenstruik said once again prior to the Overeem fight. The winner of this fight will definitely be in line for a title shot in 2020. Rozenstruik has plenty of goals in the UFC, including becoming champion. But more importantly, putting his native Suriname on the MMA map.
He might be a new name in the UFC, however, he was a professional kickboxer for seven years so he is not a newcomer to combat sports, but he is The Scrap’s MMA Newcomer of the Year.
Congratulations to Jairzinho Rozenstruik on a killer freshmen year in the UFC!