Following that symphony of destruction, the 33-year-old expected to get a rematch with the first man to beat him in the UFC, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, but after Miocic evened his score with Daniel Cormier last August, the two will finish their trilogy in the next fight for both men, leaving Ngannou without a dance partner.
“When I saw the fight with Stipe and DC, I thought I was gonna have a title shot and a rematch right away because I was in position for that,” said Ngannou, who has already faced and defeated two members of the top five currently without fights scheduled (Blaydes and Dos Santos) and lost to the third (Lewis) in a lackluster bout with little appeal at the moment.
“It’s not easy to have the right opponent for me,” he said. “To have an opponent that matches up well with me and makes sense, it wasn’t easy for those past few months.”
Enter Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
MORE UFC 249: Dominick Cruz | Justin Gaethje | Ngannou vs Rozenstruik Preview | Tony Ferguson | Ryan Spann | Bryce Mitchell | Michelle Waterson | Embedded | Calvin Kattar | Vicente Luque | Order UFC 249
Unknown to UFC fans as 2019 began, the Suriname native went 4-0 with four knockouts in his rookie year in the Octagon, the last two finishes coming against Andrei Arlovski and Alistair Overeem. And after his last-round knockout of Overeem in December, he left no question about who he wanted to face next. His first goal of 2020 was to get in the Octagon with the man few wanted to fight.
“I heard somebody was calling me out and I’m like, ‘Who is that?’” said Ngannou. “I thought it was gonna be some guy I knew, but he was a new guy.”
Hitting the internet to first learn how to say Rozenstruik’s name, then to check out his fights against Arlovski and Overeem, Ngannou soon had a signed main event in March against someone just making his presence known on his radar.
“The only thing I know about Jairzinho is that he’s the fighter who is probably the first guy who really called me out,” he said. “This guy came from nowhere; he has no name. I guess that’s why he called me out, to elevate his status. But I guess this won’t be a good idea for him. But I know I have to take him serious, and that’s what matters to me.”