For the second time, the UFC Octagon was in the nation's capital on Saturday with Washington D.C. playing host to UFC on ESPN 7 at Capital One Arena. Heavyweights Alstair Overeem and Jairzinho Rozenstruik headlined the 12-bout fight card in a night filled with finishes.
Overeem and Rozenstruik are strikers by trade with extensive kickboxing backgrounds. On paper, the matchup leaned heavily toward the fight being a standup battle but that's not what happened. Overeem entered the bout on a two-fight win streak and nearly put together the perfect game plan against the undefeated Rozenstruik.
Overeem kept his hands high as he inched forward. His left hand landed early and often, but "The Demolition Man" wanted to get the fight to the ground. He secured a takedown in the opening round and controlled Rozenstruik while delivering short punches and elbows.
In the second round, Overeem utilized the clinch to nullify Rozenstruik's offense. On the outside, he continued to land his left hand. Overeem kept the strategy up in the third round. He secured a takedown in the later portion of the frame and delivered some heavy shots.
Rozenstruik picked up the pace in the fourth round. He unleashed flurries and had Overeem covering up against the fence. Overeem's defense held up but Rozenstruik inflicted damage.
The pace slowed in the final round with both fighters visibly fatigued. Overeem was unable to secure takedowns and and his output diminished. Rozenstruik was behind on the scorecards with the judges having Overeem winning the first four rounds. In dramatic fashion, Rozenstruik landed a combination that sat Overeem down. After landing the devastating right hand, Rozenstruik walked away with his hands up, but the fight hadn't been stopped yet. Overeem immediately got to his feet but stumbled badly along the cage and the referee stepped in with just four seconds remaining.
"It was a really hard fight," said Rozenstruik following the knockout win. "I don't need too much. One shot. One kill."
"Going deep is what we do everyday in the gym and that's what I showed. I showed some heart out here and knocked him out in the last round. When you work hard you can do those things," he added.
Top-ten ranked strawweights Marina Rodriguez and Cynthia Calvillo met in the co-main event in a catchweight bout due to Calvillo missing weight by 4.5 pounds at Friday's weigh-in. Rodriguez entered the fight unbeaten while Calvillo was looking to extend her winning streak.
In the first round, Rodriguez took the fight to Calvillo. She landed right hands and set the pace until Calvillo changed levels and took the fight to the ground. Rodriguez quickly made her way back to her feet and went on the attack. He landed a head kick and a knee that hurt Calvillo. Calvillo secured a takedown and mounted Rodriguez in the closing seconds of the frame.
Despite the action at the end of the first round, Rodriguez looked to be controlling the majority of the action. In the second frame, Rodriguez targeted Calvillo's body with kicks, punches and knees. Calvillo absorbed the shots but was unable to mount an effective offense.
Calvillo secured an early takedown in the final frame and dominated the round. She mounted Rodriguez and delivered an onslaught of punches. After absorbing dozens of punches, Rodriguez scrambled to her feet with 40 seconds remaining and went on the offensive. The fight went the distance and the judges scored the fight a majority draw.
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In women's bantamweight action, No. 5 ranked Aspen Ladd faced former Invicta FC champion and No. 7 ranked Yana Kunitskaya. Ladd was looked to rebound from her first career loss to Germaine de Randamie in her last outing while Kunitskaya hoped to move into contender status.
Through the first half of the opening round, Kuniskaya controlled Ladd in the clinch position. Ladd was able to create enough space to change levels and put Kunitskaya on the canvas. After taking the Russian's back, Ladd opened up with punches. In the final seconds of the round, Kunitskaya reversed the position.
Kunitskaya began targeting Ladd's lead leg in the second frame. She used her jab to keep Ladd on the outside before deciding to clinch. She overpowered Ladd along the cage while delivering knees to the body. After separating, Ladd changed levels and took Kunitskaya down but was unable to inflict damage. Heading into the final round, it was anyone's fight.
At the start of the third round, Ladd rushed in with a combination and dropped Kunitiskaya wiht a left hook. She followed Kunitskaya to the ground and delivered punches. He took Kunitskaya's back and hammered away with left hands until the referee stopped the fight.
"I definitely could have done better, but I'm happy to be back. It feels like I'm home," said Ladd after the TKO win. "It was a good hook, but there's a lot more that I could do. As always, I have a lot of work to do. I'm very proud that I was able to show some of what we have worked on since the last fight."