In a perfect world, Saturday night’s main event between Alistair Overeem (45-17) and Jairzinho Rozenstruik (9-0) would be pure pleasure for UFC fans, a heavyweight fight full of drama and mythic resonance and title implications featuring two men plucked straight out of central casting.
On one side you have Overeem, the impossibly huge MMA legend with 63 fights and numerous championship belts to his name, fighting to stay relevant in a sport to which he’s given 20 years of his life, and on the other, you have Rozenstruik, the young-up-and-comer from a tiny country with dynamite in his hands who wants what Overeem has and who’s been mauling opponents to get it. It’s a real struggle between experience and youth, between the present and the future of MMA. Pure pleasure. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We don’t even live in a decent one.
Originally Rozenstruik wasn’t supposed to be on the card, which you can live stream on ESPN. On Nov. 2, he fought and beat Andrei Arlovski at Madison Square Garden, and under normal circumstances, he’d be spending the next few months at home, resting his body after a grueling 12-week training camp. But on the same day as that fight in New York City, Overeem’s original opponent for this UFC on ESPN main event, Walt Harris, announced that he was pulling out because his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard had gone missing in Alabama. Since then, police have determined that Blanchard was abducted and murdered, a tragedy that’s put the concerns of cage-fighting into perspective and hung a pall over the MMA community.
When the UFC called Rozenstruik to ask if he’d be willing to fill in for Harris on short notice, he wisely jumped at the opportunity despite the circumstances, knowing a win over one of the biggest names in the sport would help make his reputation.
Not that his reputation needs much help. The 31-year-old Surinamese kickboxer has only fought in the UFC three times but he’s proven himself to be a puncher of rare gifts. He knocked out the legendary Arlovski in just 29 seconds. Five months earlier, he knocked out Allen Crowder in just nine seconds—making the Arlovski fight feel like a David Lean movie by comparison. With two-thirds of his UFC career able to fit into a single gif, Rozenstruik has been floating through the heavyweight division on the magic in his hands. That kind of casual, natural, God-given knockout power is a rare thing, even among heavyweight fighters. Rozenstruik’s fellow UFC contender Francis Ngannou has it. So does boxing champion Deontay Wilder. Those three may be the entire list.
Which isn’t great news for Overeem. Despite being a giant of MMA, the Dutch kickboxer is also, at age 39, an old man, and his chin has shown wear. Since coming to the UFC in 2013, he’s been knocked out six times, including a one-punch comic-book uppercut from Ngannou that would have killed most men. So at this point in his career, Overeem’s ideal opponent is probably not another preternaturally strong knockout artist looking to make his name by beating up a legend. But real life has changed everyone’s plans, so either Rozenstruik’s coming-out party or the next glorious chapter in Overeem’s already illustrious career—whichever one unfolds—will unfold under a cloud.
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Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- When: Saturday, Dec. 7 at 9pm EST
- Where: Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.
- Streaming: ESPN (free with various one-week trials)
How to watch Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Cost: $54.99 per month
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2) Sling TV
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Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik live stream schedule
All times in ET.
Main event | 9pm on ESPN
- Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
- Marina Rodriguez vs. Cynthia Calvillo
- Stefan Struve vs. Ben Rothwell
- Aspen Ladd vs. Yana Kunitskaya
- Cody Stamann vs. Song Yadong
- Rob Font vs. Ricky Simon
Prelims | 7pm on ESPN
- Thiago Alves vs. Tim Means
- Billy Quarantillo vs. Jacob Kilburn
- Bryce Mitchell vs. Matt Sayles
Early Prelims | 5:30pm on ESPN+
- Joe Solecki vs. Matt Wiman
- Livinha Souza vs. Virna Jandiroba
- Makhmud Muradov vs. Trevor Smith
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