Aspen Ladd impresses, Song Yadong gets surprising result

MMA news

Jairzinho Rozenstruik is a former high-level kickboxer who has lived and trained in the Netherlands. So it’s no surprise that the up-and-coming UFC star is very familiar with Alistair Overeem, the former K-1 kickboxing champion and MMA champion of Dutch descent.

“I know Overeem for a long time,” Rozenstruik told ESPN. “I trained one time in the same gym as him. I know what he’s done for the sport. For me, he’s a big guy. He’s a really big name, he’s really famous. I know him. I know what I’m up against with him.”

On Saturday, Overeem and Rozenstruik will meet in the main event of UFC Washington, D.C. It’ll be a battle of top strikers and knockout artists, one from the old school and the other from the new school. The winner will be in excellent position in the UFC’s heavyweight division going into 2020.

Overeem (45-1, 1 NC) has won two in a row and is trying to rise again to a heavyweight title shot. The England-born Dutchman fell to Stipe Miocic in a bout for the championship on Sept. 10, 2016. Overeem, 39, has been a pro MMA fighter for 20 years and has a host of accolades to his name, including heavyweight titles in Strikeforce and Dream. He won the K-1 kickboxing world grand prix in 2010. Overeem is currently ranked No. 8 by ESPN among MMA heavyweights.

Rozenstruik (9-0), meanwhile, is just getting started. He has won all three of his UFC fights by KO/TKO — all this year. The Surinamese slugger knocked out former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in just 29 seconds at UFC 244 on Nov. 2. He is filling in here for Overeem’s originally scheduled opponent, Walt Harris, who is dealing with the death of his stepdaughter Aniah Blanchard. Rozenstruik, 31, has won eight of his nine career fights by knockout or TKO.

In the co-main event Saturday, rising strawweight fighters Cynthia Calvillo and Marina Rodriguez will face off. Calvillo (8-1) has won two straight but missed weight by 4.5 pounds Friday. Rodriguez (12-0-1) is unbeaten in all four of her UFC fights.

Also on the card, Stefan Struve and Ben Rothwell meet in a heavyweight matchup.

Next fight:

Heavyweight: Stefan Struve (29-11, +110) vs. Ben Rothwell (36-12, -140)


Women’s bantamweight: Aspen Ladd (9-1) defeats Yana Kunitskaya (12-5) by TKO in the third round

There’s killer instinct and then there’s Ladd. To start the third round, Ladd dropped Kunitskaya with a left hook and then swarmed with ferocity. She never let Kunitskaya recover, taking her back and landing big ground and pound. Referee Keith Peterson had no choice but to step in. Ladd won by TKO at 33 seconds of the third round.

In the corner between the second and third, Ladd’s coach Jim West lit into her, telling her she needed to go out and turn it on after what had been somewhat of a lackluster performance to that point.

“I better frickin’ listen,” Ladd said afterward. “If he’s saying this, he’s saying this. And I need to go. I did.”

Ladd had Kunitskaya’s back in the first round and was throwing huge blows. But Kunitskaya was able to block most and Ladd slid off her back because she was too aggressive. In the second, Ladd took down Kunitskaya but didn’t do much with it. Kunitskaya was able to impose her will in the first with clinches against the cage, landing big knees to the body. But Ladd finished strong, just as West had told her to.

Ladd bounced back from a knockout loss to Germaine de Randamie in July. The 24-year-old blue-chip prospect has won five of her past six. Ladd, a California native, came in ranked No. 4 by ESPN among women’s bantamweight fighters. Kunitskaya had her two-fight winning streak snapped. The 30-year-old Russian came in ranked No. 9 at women’s bantamweight by ESPN.

Bantamweight: Cody Stamann (18-2-1) and Song Yadong (15-4-1) fight to a majority draw

Things started off oddly for Yadong, the blue-chip prospect, and only got more strange. Yadong was docked a point for an illegal knee in the first round and then was mauled by Stamann on the ground in the third. In between, Yadong fared very well on the feet.

The majority draw had scores of 29-27, 28-28 and 28-28. The first round was 9-9 after the point deduction. Round 2 to Yadong 10-9 and Round 3 to Stamann 10-9 to get the 28-28 draw on two of the three cards.

In the first, Yadong landed a knee while Stamann had a knee down on the mat. Referee Kevin Mulhall deducted a point from Yadong’s score. When the action resumed, Yadong was the aggressor on the feet and ended the round well.

Stamann was able to take Yadong down effectively in the second and third rounds. In the third, Stamann dominated the final two-plus minutes on the ground, getting into mount and landing ground and pound. It seemed as if Stamann would take the decision, but it ended up being a draw.

Stamann now owns a 4-1-1 record in the UFC. The 30-year-old Michigan native has only one loss, to top bantamweight Aljamain Sterling, in the past five years. Yadong is unbeaten in his past eight fights. At just 22 years old, the China native is considered one of the best young up-and-coming fighters in all of the UFC.

Bantamweight: Rob Font (17-4) defeats Ricky Simon (15-3) by unanimous decision

It took Font nearly a year to get back into the Octagon — he had not fought since Dec. 15, 2018, a unanimous win over Sergio Pettis — but there was no ring rust to speak of. Font won by the scores of 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 to open the UFC D.C. main card.

Font really took over in the second and third rounds with his boxing. He was able to stop Simon’s takedown attempts for the most part with a snapping jab and a follow-up right hand.

In the third, he landed a nice right cross followed by an uppercut to do damage. Minutes later, Font hit a double jab followed by that straight right again.

Font said afterward that he “sucks” in the first round, but he won the first on the scorecard of one of the judges and more than made up for it in the second and third. Simon fought well, too. It was a close fight throughout. Simon nearly took control in the third with a big slam from the high crotch. But Font was able to scramble to the feet and get back into his boxing.

Font has won three of his past four fights. The 32-year-old Massachusetts native has won two straight now, his first winning streak since he won two in a row in 2016 and 2017. Simon has dropped two straight. The 27-year-old Washington native was coming off a loss to Urijah Faber at UFC Sacramento in July.

Welterweight: Tim Means (29-11-1) defeats Thiago Alves (28-15) by guillotine choke in first round

“Even in my close loses, I was right in those fights, they’ve been fun fights,” Means said. “I’m happy to get my hand raised and get the W, especially against a tough guy like Alves. I wanted to get a fight in before the end of the year and just put it into my head mentally that I deserve to be here and belong here. Even in my last loss when I broke my leg, I was in that fight, it was very competitive, so getting a win is icing on the cake heading into the holidays.

“Knowing how heavy a kicker Thiago is, I was expecting him to come in and chop my legs and I wanted to put my injury to the test right away to get that confidence back. With this sport, you have to either be all in or get out, so I wanted to prove to myself I was still all in there. He hit me with those body kicks and I had to take a second to breathe and refocus and let the fight carry on. The further a fight goes, the better I get generally, so stay calm and rely on what you learn in practice. This sport is a chess match, it can go either way and you have to crush someone’s dreams or get yours crushed, that’s why we love it.”

From ESPN Stats & Information: Means had won only two of his past seven fights and made his return from a serious leg injury suffered in his last fight in March. He picks up his first submission win since April 2015. It’s his first submission win in the first-round since Aug. 2011.

Featherweight: Billy Quarantillo (13-2) defeats Jacob Kilburn (8-3) by triangle choke in second round

“It’s amazing to get my first UFC win, I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was 16 or 17 years old watching The Ultimate Fighter,” Quarantillo said. “I always imagined the walk-out, how it would feel to get in there and luckily I came away with a pretty decisive victory. I couldn’t dream it up any better. I had a feeling I would be able to go out and do that. I didn’t know if I would stand with him a bit longer because I thought he would try to disengage and strike with me, because that’s where he’s stronger.

“My conditioning is always on point and I’ve worn out people who had full training camps, so I knew coming in on short notice that I was going to go 100 miles an hour and he would break eventually. I had so much experience coming into this with Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter. I always tell people being locked in that house for seven weeks is way harder than anything else in this sport. I’m not like your average guy on his first fight, I’ve basically been here before. The next few weeks, I’m just going to go home and back to the gym, work with my coaches to see where I can get better and then just see what’s out there. I’m not injured, so I want to fight again in the first quarter, something like March or April would be perfect. I just want to keep climbing up the ladder.”

From ESPN Stats & Information: Quarantillo wins his UFC debut by submission, his first win via submission since September 2014. Quarantillo has won six straight fights with the past five coming by finish (four by KO/TKO, one by submission).

Featherweight: Bryce Mitchell (12-1) defeats Matt Sayles (8-3) by twister submission in first round

“You know what my favorite board game is? Twister,” Mitchell said. “I’m a huge Eddie Bravo fan and I got that from YouTube.

“I worked so hard for this fight, I almost knew for sure that I was going to get him out of there. In my last two fights, I’ve given up 11 pounds and 15 pounds, so I hired a nutritionist, I put weight on and I knew I could go out there and put on a performance like that. When I fought those other guys, it was a huge deal how much stronger and bigger they felt. When I got a hold of Matt, I knew he was working every time he moved. I just had to be patient, you can’t go too early before they’re ready. Coach calls it cooking it, you gotta cook them to the bone, you don’t put meat on the grill and take it off right away, so I knew I had to take my time. I’m going to rest up and keep training my skills and continue bettering myself.”

From ESPN Stats & Information: That’s the second twister in UFC history, joining Chan Sung Jung on Leonard Garcia on March 26, 2011.

Lightweight: Joe Solecki (9-2) defeats Matt Wiman (16-9) by unanimous decision

“First UFC win feels amazing,” Solecki said. “I was a little worried about UFC jitters and all that, especially fighting a vet like Matt, but I honestly never felt better.

“Fighting on Dana White’s Contender Series absolutely helped prepare me for this. If you’re going to have an adrenaline dump, it’s when you’re fighting in front of the three most important people in this business. Dana wasn’t even at this one and I had a ton of supporters here, so I was set. I lost sleep over this, I’ve only been to two decisions and lost one of them, tonight I dominated. Had a 10-8 round in the beginning, pushed through adversity in the second and never really got tired. This was the best thing for me, fighting a vet, going three rounds, even the trash talk, I felt like a seasoned vet in there and I will only take confidence from that. I think the future is bright, I want to make it through this first contract, get to the next and treat my wife to all of the things she’s earned in this life. I do this for sure and to provide for our family, so whoever is next, bring them on.”

Strawweight: Virna Jandiroba (15-1) defeats Mallory Martin (6-3) by rear-naked choke in second round

“I wasn’t really surprised that she wanted to take me down so much, if you watch her fights that’s pretty much what she does all the time, so it was expected,” Jandiroba said. “I thought she might try to stand to change things up a bit, but she did as she normally does. The chokes were a good try on her part, but I was in a good position and none of them were really that dangerous.

“Right now, in the short term, I want to go back home and enjoy the win with my friends. Long term, I’m here to be a champion, that’s what I came over from Invicta for, that’s what I train for, so I will go up the rankings one step at a time and hopefully I will get there.”

Middleweight: Makhmud Muradov (24-6) defeats Trevor Smith (15-10) by third-round KO

“This was my first fight in the United States, but not my last fight,” Muradov said. “I’m happy I’m here and opening this card. I’m happy I got my first KO in the UFC, I’m happy.

“If you give me three months, I can show the UFC and fans my big power. Before, it was always two weeks or three weeks, now I have two months with a full camp and I show everyone what happens. Maybe I fight six times again next year, who knows. I’m waiting for my contract, maybe I’ll have my next fight in March or April and whoever the UFC wants that is near my rank, but I’m open to everything.”

From ESPN Stats & Information: Muradov picks up his first UFC stoppage victory. Muradov has now won 13 straight fights with 10 of those coming via KO/TKO.

Still to come:

Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem (45-17, -110) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (9-0, -120)

Strawweight: Marina Rodriguez (12-0-1, -130) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (8-1, +100)

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