Heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes has a big task in front of him for his next outing, but he’s feeling as confident as ever heading into the matchup.
Blaydes was recently paired up against Surinamese knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 266 in September. The fight will give him an opportunity to bounce back after a devastating knockout loss to Derrick Lewis halted his 4-fight winning streak in February.
Speaking to James Lynch of LowKick MMA, Blaydes said the match up was one he and his team have been anticipating for a while.
“Yeah. I knew it would be the winner of that fight,” Blaydes said of Rozenstruik’s victory over Augusto Sakai. “I was hoping it would be Jairzinho, just because he’s a bigger name, he’s higher ranked. It wasn’t like a shock. We expected it, and we’ve been planning for months and months.”
Knowing that the winner of that fight would most likely be next, Blaydes obviously kept a close eye on it. However, he wasn’t exactly blown away by Rozenstruik’s performance, even with the first round stoppage.
“I wasn’t overly impressed with the technique,” Blaydes said. “Obviously the power is impressive, but the technique is not… like watching him, I watched him when he fought Gane and you could just tell the difference in the speed and fluidity and the technique. Jairzinho is more of your old school, classic plodder. You go, I go, you go, I go. I don’t find him that explosive, he doesn’t have crazy attacks. It’s pretty basic. But it works for him, he sticks with what he knows. He doesn’t bring a lot of diversity which does make it a little easier to gameplan, but you always have to be aware of the power.”
Another reason Blaydes is coming into this fight with so much confidence is because he has the advice of his training partner Alistair Overeem, who fought against Rozenstruik in December 2019. Though he came out on the wrong end of that fight, Overeem was firmly in control throughout until being caught by a Hail Mary punch in the dying seconds. It’s a fight that Blaydes considers a win for his training partner despite the official outcome, which is why he’s glad to be getting advice from ‘The Demolition Man’.
“In my mind, Alistair won that fight,” said Blaydes. “Just like in my mind Volkov beat Derrick Lewis. I know he did lose in highlight fashion, but up until the loss he was owning that fight, just like with Alistair. So yeah, I’ve spoken to Alistair about it. We’ve talked a little bit about it, what things he thinks I can take advantage of and I agree with him on a lot of those. It definitely helps to have a guy that you know, that you already train with, that’s already fought the guy you’re about to fight.”
Blaydes has brought in a number of fighters for this training camp, hoping t give himself so new looks at different styles. Since he was unable to participate in full contact training for an extended time thanks to the Lewis knockout, he’s been able to work on other parts of his game that he felt were lacking that have now became strong points.
“We have a guy that’s a judoka, a black belt in judo who’s a light heavyweight,” Blaydes said. “It’s been cool having him there, just asking him about things he likes and certain positions in the clinch.”
“I wasn’t able to have contact training from the day of the knockout all the way up to the end of May, so I focused heavily on Jiu jitsu. I got in months of 12 hours a week with just Jiu jitsu privates with this black belt that I’ve been working with. He’s a big guy, and it’s really hard to find a big guy. He has the availability, so we put in a lot of hours. I feel very confident in my grappling game, in my submissions. I’ve added a few, and my defense has gotten better. I definitely smell a submission in the near future.”
All the extra work has him convinced fans will see a vintage Curtis Blaydes performance come September. He believes he hold a definite advantage wherever the fight goes, but is hoping the night will end with a career first.
“I think it plays out almost like the Derrick Lewis fight, except without me getting hit with the uppercut,” Blaydes said. “I think I’m faster than him, I’m longer than him. I’m the better fighter overall. I got the better striking; I think I’m more aggressive. Ill be able to put him on the cage, and pressure him and then he’ll make a mistake and I’ll be able either put him away on the feet or get to his hips and get that first career submission win.”
As for what a victory means for Blaydes, that’s not something he’s concerning himself with at the moment. For now, he just wants to get back to his winning ways and get the sour taste that’s been lingering since February out of his mouth.
“Regardless of whatever implications, I want to win just for me. I want to get the taste of that L out of my mouth, because it does taste awful. I do want to get rid of that. I’m looking forward to putting on a show. My hands have been growing, my Jiu jitsu has been growing, I’ve always got the wrestling… I’m excited.”
Who do you think will win between Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik?