Alistair Overeem had certain victory snatched from him Saturday night in Washington D.C. by both his impressive opponent Jairzinho Rozenstruik and referee Dan Miragliotta in the final seconds of their UFC main event. The record books will show Rozenstruik finished Overeem with just four seconds left in the fifth and final round of their bout, and indeed he fought with devastating effectiveness near the close.
Still, what very well could have been an ending without controversy was complicated by confusion the result of indecisive and contradictory officiating from Miragliotta in the chaotic and violent last seconds of the contest. Apparently working from behind, Rozenstruik attacked a tiring Overeem with one final offensive flurry — connecting with a left punch and then a right one to follow that landed with neither of Rozenstruik’s feet planted on the ground.
Both punches did damage but the second one split Overeem’s top lip instantly and dropped him to the mat against the cage wall. At that point, with Rozenstruik facing the felled Overeem and poised to put the finishing touches on the come-from-behind win, the referee leapt into action.
First, he put his hands on Rozenstruik — a clear signal to stop fighting that fighters know to obey — and then the official stepped in between the two fighters with his arms raised. After having the referee place his hands on him, Rozenstruik turned and walked away, seemingly and understandably believing the fight was over.
The only problem, however, was that Miragliotta had not actually waved off the fight and called an official halt to the bout and Overeem immediately jumped up to his feet to continue fighting within a second of hitting the mat. Miragliotta allowed the time on the clock to continue ticking and then, moments later, with Overeem stumbling but on his feet, a mere four seconds left on the clock, and Rozenstruik too far away from Overeem to do any additional damage with the time left, Miragliotta called a halt to the bout.
The television broadcast team soon after reported that Overeem was ahead on all ringside judges’ scorecards four rounds to none, heading into the fifth round. If Miragliotta had stopped the fight immediately after Overeem hit the mat, and after signaling to Rozenstruik that it was over with his actions, there may not have been much to debate.
That Miragliotta allowed the time to continue running, and then that Overeem got back up to his feet and the fight was only then stopped after Overeem’s position had improved and he was actually out of harm’s way, however, unnecessarily marred the ending.
Two things that are incontrovertible, though, are that Overeem won at least the first two-thirds of the fight and that Rozenstruik nonetheless finished things with a punctuation. The win is the UFC rookie’s fourth win of 2019 and he improves his MMA record to a perfect 10-0.
Overeem’s record dips to 45-18-1. Both men have long pro kickboxing records on top of their MMA marks. Rozenstruik began the fight refusing to shake hands with Overeem and afterward explained that he had felt disrespected by “The Demolition Man.”
“You say I’m not [on] you’re level then I think you’re missing something,” he said, post-fight.
“It was a hard fight. The guy’s a really smart guy … but still, I knocked him out … [I] don’t need too much. One shot, one kill.”
This was the first time that Rozenstruik has been forced to fight a full five rounds in his MMA career, but he insisted that digging deep is nothing new for him. “Going deep is what we do every day in the gym,” he explained.
Both men showed smarts, technique, conditioning, and courage over five rounds. The first round saw Overeem land the first of many left punches to the head before scoring a takedown into the side mount.
He spent the rest of the round on top using side mount or back control to keep the pressure on Rozenstruik and land punches and elbows. In the second round the two worked against the cage in clinches early on, constantly pummeling to improve position as well as firing off strikes back and forth from close quarters.
Despite the near perpetual action, the referee interceded to separate them and order them to re-start fighting from a further distance. From there, they traded lead kicks and Rozenstruik looked for uppercuts to the head as Overeem landed more left hands.
In the third, the two traded strikes on the outside with Overeem connecting with a kick to the body and Rozenstruik replying with one of his own down low. Soon the two were clinched up against the cage once more after a failed level change and shot attempt from Overeem.
Overeem stayed with the strategy and soon landed another takedown into the side mount. He then transitioned on the mat to a leg drag position and then half guard.
Overeem landed hard punches and elbows from on top in the last fifteen seconds of the period.
The counter-striker Rozenstruik began to attempt to chase down Overeem a bit more in the fourth round, specifically trying to punch through Overeem’s high guard. Overeem responded with another left punch and an inside left leg kick.
Rozenstruik found his mark with an uppercut to the head, a flying knee to the head and then by ripping hooks to the body of Overeem against the cage. Overeem covered up well and survived before landing another left punch to the head but soon he was backed up once more against the cage and forced to absorb punches.
Now bleeding from his mouth, Overeem was backed against the wall for a third time in the round at the close of it, covering up his head but eating punches to the body from Rozenstruik.
The fifth round saw Rozenstruik continue to walk down an apparently tiring Overeem and initiate action until he broke through in the final moments of the battle.
After his win, Rozenstruik gave a specific timetable for when he wanted to get back into action, and who he wanted to face — former heabyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou. “I want to be back March, April,” he announced.
“I really want to fight this big scary guy Francis Ngannou.”
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