After a one-week hiatus, the UFC is back this Saturday night, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, with UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Sakai. Two top-10 heavyweights will headline the card as Jairzinho Rozenstruik takes on Augusto Sakai. This card is simply the appetizer before next week’s hearty main dish of UFC 263. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look back at UFC Fight Night: Font vs Garbrandt and review our best bets. You’ll find my full list of fight picks for both the main card and the preliminary card for this week's UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Sakai at the bottom of this article as well.
All lines below provided by DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing. All stats provided by UFCStats.com
Last Week's Recap - UFC Fight Night: Font vs Garbrandt
All Fight Picks: 6-6
Official Plays: 0-3
A betting night like this one was a bit overdue as we were in the black four out of the last five UFC cards coming into UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Garbrandt. Regardless, going 0-3 ain’t cool. It began with Edmen Shahbazyan (+130), who looked great in the first round before wilting to Jack Hermansson’s (-162) grappling in rounds two and three. It’s back to the drawing board for Shahbazyan while Hermansson stays relevant in the middleweight division. The next one, however, was the most disappointing one for me.
I was high on Yan Xiaonan (-125) and her prospects in the strawweight division, let alone against the division’s gatekeeper, Carla Esparza (+100). Unfortunately, Xiaonan had absolutely no answers for Esparza’s wrestling and will now watch as Esparza takes her spot in a title fight against, champion, Rose Namajunas. Speaking of no answers, Cody Garbrandt (-110) had none for Rob Font (-110) over the course of five rounds. He looks like a shell of himself while Font looks like a legit title contender in the bantamweight division after years and years of hard work. Nonetheless, it's now time to move forward and turn our attention towards this week’s card, UFC Fight Night: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-130) vs. Augusto Sakai (+105)
The main event will feature two heavyweights looking to get back into the win column and keep their top ten rankings intact, respectively. This should be fun fight, as both guys have big knockout power on the feet and that’s where I anticipate this fight being contested. Both fighters average a putrid 0.15 takedowns per 15 minutes combined so they will be trading leather for the scheduled five rounds.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik needs to be more active in this matchup in order to win. He’s a slow, methodical, counter striker that often loses rounds due to low volume and activity. What he lacks in urgency, however, is countered by his explosive bursts. His game plan is pretty simple: he will look to land his big counter hooks while mixing in leg kicks throughout the fight. When he senses that his opponent is hurt, he’s a finisher. He does a great job of pressuring his opponent and throwing in big combinations to K.O. them.
Rozenstruik's opponent, Augusto Sakai, will be the more active fighter in this matchup. Do not let his body or size fool you. He’s got very good footwork on the feet. He likes to uses his movements and feints to bait his opponent into exchanges where he can let his hands go and throw in combinations. In the clinch, he’s got vicious knees to the body and elbows to the head. Both of these guys are pretty durable too, as Rozenstruik has been knocked out once in 13 fights. Sakai has been knocked out once in 18 fights as well.
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues. If this fight is to go the distance, and I believe it has a good chance of doing so, then Sakai is the pick. He’s the more active, technical, and higher volume fighter. He also has more paths to victory over the course of five rounds. My only concern is that Sakai likes to push forward and get into wild exchanges. Rozenstruik, as a counter striker, will be more than happy to oblige him. Fighters who have stayed on the outside, avoiding Rozenstruik’s power, while landing shots from distance have faired very well against him. Since Rozenstruik is a low volume striker, his opponents end up racking up the rounds against him. As long as Sakai avoids getting into long, wild exchanges and avoids Rozenstruik’s power, I believe his durability, tools, and volume will earn him the victory over the course of five rounds. The pick is Augusto Sakai (+105) to win and I put one and a half units on him.
Santiago Ponzinibbio (+100) vs Miguel Baeza (-125)
This is the fight I’m most looking forward to on the card. You have Santiago Ponzinibbio looking to recapture the magic he had before becoming deathly ill a couple of years ago. While Miguel Baeza is looking to stay unbeaten and continue his run towards the top-15 in the welterweight division.
These guys want to keep the fight standing to show off their striking ability. They both are skilled on the feet. They are technical, varied strikers who have legit power in their hands and legs. They like to utilize hard low leg kicks to neutralize their opponents movements. This should be another exciting standup fight.
There are some questions surrounding this fight. Is Ponzinibbio a shell of himself after his two-year, illness ridden hiatus? Or did he knock off the rust in his last fight and we’re going to see the old top-10 Ponzinibbio? Is Baeza the real deal and a true top-15 welterweight in the UFC? I believe the answer is yes to two of those questions. I believe Baeza is the real deal and that Ponzinibbio may very well be a shell of himself. This is the toughest test to date for the Baeza, but I believe he's ready to pass the test. I like his long reach and propensity to utilize his kicking game in exchanges on the feet. I believe that is what will give him the edge in this matchup and allow him to win a tough, close decision victory. The kid continues to improve each time he enters the cage and I’m betting on that trend continuing against a fighter who's best days may very well be behind him. The pick is Miguel Baeza (-125), and I put one and a half units on him.
“Live Dog of the Night” - Ilir Latifi (+160)
Last week, for my “Live Dog of the Night,' I picked Norma Dumont Viana (+150), who I believed was live against Felicia Spencer (-186). It was a close fight, but Viana still ended up coming through for us with a split decision win.
Tanner Boser (-200) is a smaller heavyweight who throws nice combinations on the feet while utilizing his lateral foot movement. He’s one of the better heavyweight prospects in the UFC, but I felt like he got a bit exposed the last time out against the grittier and veteran ladened, Andrei Arlovski. Ilir Latifi (+160) is another grittier, veteran fighter who has no problem grinding out a boring decision victory. Ilir is a smaller heavyweight himself who tries to land a big overhand or grapple you to death before gassing out himself. Boser is the rightful favorite here, but I believe Latifi is seasoned enough to teach the young gun a lesson the same way Arlovski did. There’s a reason this is just a pizza bet, but the pick is Ilir Latifi (+160) here.
All Picks For UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Sakai
Main Card (6PM EST on ESPN+)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-130) vs Augusto Sakai (+105)
Walt Harris (+140) vs Marcin Tybura (-177)
Roman Dolidze (-150) vs Laureano Staropoli (+120)
Santiago Ponzinibbio (+100) vs Miguel Baeza (-125)
Dusko Todorovic (-150) vs Gregory Rodrigues (+120)
Tom Breese (-250) vs Antonio Arroyo (+195)
Preliminary Card (4PM EST on ESPN+)
Montana De La Rosa (-278) vs Ariane Lipski (+215)
Tanner Boser (-200) vs Ilir Latifi (+160)
Francisco Trinaldo (+195) vs Muslim Salikhov (-250)
Makwan Amirkhani (-230) vs Kamuela Kirk (+180)
Alan Patrick (+230) vs Mason Jones (-305)
Manon Fiorot (-500) vs Tabatha Ricci (+350)
Sean Woodson (-190) vs Youssef Zalal (+150)
Claudio Puelles (+165) vs Jordan Leavitt (-210)