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UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik v Gaziev Predictions

Mysterious marauder Shamil Gaziev seeks to break into the heavyweight top 15 when he faces knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event of UFC Vegas 86 on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.


Mysterious marauder Shamil Gaziev seeks to break into the heavyweight top 15 when he faces knockout artist Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the main event of UFC Vegas 87 on Saturday night, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Lethal light heavyweights Vitor Petrino and Tyson Pedro lock horns in the co-headliner at the APEX in Las Vegas, while Alex Perez meets Muhammad Mokaev in a clash of top 10 flyweight.

Plus, the highly touted Umar Nurmagomedov takes on UFC newcomer Bekzat Almakhan at bantamweight and Matt Schnell squares off against Steve Erceg at flyweight.

MAIN CARD (from 11 PM Saturday SA time):

Jairzinho Rozenstruik (2.40) v Shamil Gaziev (1.60) (Heavyweight)

The weekend’s heavyweight headliner is a battle between a seasoned Octagon warrior and a fighter in the infancy of his UFC career.

Rozenstruik (13-5) has headlined five previous cards and was a mainstay in the top 10 before his current slump, which has seen him go 1-3 in his last four fights, resulting in him dropping down to 12th in the rankings.

Deceptively athletic and a wily, technical striker, the Suriname savage held a remarkable kickboxing record of 76-8 with 64 knockouts and has proved every bit as dangerous of a striking savant in mixed martial arts with 12 of his 13 wins coming by KO, including nine in the first round.

One of those was a 23-second dusting of Chris Daukaus in December 2022, which snapped a two-fight skid. However, he was unable to build on that triumph, losing his only fight since by submission to Jailton Almeida last May. At 35, he can ill afford to go down to an unranked up-and-comer.

The undefeated Gaziev is somewhat of a mystery as he’s only had one fight in the UFC. He delivered in his promotional debut, scoring a knockout win over Martin Buday last December to improve to a perfect 12-0.

Fighting out of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the 33-year-old has finished all but one of his bouts (eight knockouts and three submissions) and made such an impression with his Performance of the Night against Buday that he gets to headline a UFC card in just his second fight in the promotion.

It’s always tough to gauge whether a fighter like Gaziev, who came up under the Brave CF banner, will be able to make the step up to the upper echelons of the UFC, but he has the overall base to make noise in the division.

A much more well-rounded fighter than Rozenstruik, he’s comfortable in the pocket, adept at using his size in the clinch, has solid wrestling and ruthless ground and pound.

With his elite-level experience, “Bigi Boy” will be Gaziev’s toughest test to date, but the bigger and more versatile UFC greenhorn has the size, strength and superior arsenal of weapons to put himself on the map in a fight destined to end in a stoppage.

Prediction: Gaziev by knockout.

Best Bet: Gaziev by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.30.

Alternative Bet: Gaziev at 1.60.

Vitor Petrino (1.32) v Tyson Pedro (3.45) (Light Heavyweight)

Don’t blink in the co-main event featuring light heavyweight finishers.

Petrino, who’s a perfect 10-0, has eight stoppage wins (including seven knockouts), while Pedro (10-4) boasts a 100% finish rate (five knockouts and five submissions).

Petrino has proved himself to be a complete competitor, winning his UFC debut against Anton Turkalj by decision before submitting Marcin Prachnio and, most recently, knocking out Modestas Bukauskas.

Pedro, meanwhile, has had mixed success inside the Octagon. The aggressive Australian has notable wins over Paul Craig and Khalil Rountree Jr but is 6-4 in the UFC.

A kill-or-be-killed fighter, all six of his wins in the promotion came in the first round, including over Anton Turkalj in his last fight, which saw him bounce back from a decision loss to Bukauskas.

Petrino is firing on all cylinders and is the crisper striker, so he should beat Pedro to the punch in violent fashion.

Prediction: Petrino by knockout.

Best Bet: Petrino by KO/TKO/DQ at 2.65.

Alternative Bet: Under 1.5 rounds at 2.14

Alex Perez (3.95) v Muhammad Mokaev (1.26) (Flyweight)

The No. 7 and No. 8 ranked flyweight contenders face off in the featured bout.

Higher-ranked Perez (24-7) returns to the Octagon for the first time in almost two years looking to make up for lost time. A former title challenger, he’s mixed it up with some of the division’s finest and serves as an ideal litmus test for the red-hot up-and-comer.

The undefeated Mokaev (11-0 1NC) is a mauler destined for big things. A powerful grappler, he’s racked up five straight UFC wins, including three successive submissions, and will seek to smother and stretch his returning rival on the ground as well.

Ring rust is real and although Perez has a rich pedigree, this is a bad match-up for him. Not only will he struggle with the speed and sharpness of his 23-year-old opponent, but he also has known issues on the ground with five of his seven losses coming by submission. Expect him to be found out there again by “The Punisher.”

Prediction: Mokaev by submission.

Best Bet: Mokaev by submission at 2.50.

Alternative Bet: Under 2.5 rounds at 1.86.

Umar Nurmagomedov (1.08) v Bekzat Almakhan (8.40) (Bantamweight)

One of the best unbeaten prospects in the UFC, Nurmagomedov (16-0) has all of the makings of a future champion. A dominant grappler with serious knockout power, the cousin of former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is the boogeyman of the bantamweight division.

With none of the top dogs willing to face him, the UFC had to be creative to find him an opponent and landed on Bekzat Almakhan, a 17-1 prospect fighting out of Kazakhstan. A hard-hitting striker on a nine-fight win streak, he’s deserving of a shot in the UFC but could hardly have drawn a tougher first assignment.

That Almakhan is one of the biggest underdogs you’re likely to see in MMA says everything you need to know about the skill and savagery of Nurmagomedov, who’s set to steamroll the newcomer to make it five in a row inside the Octagon.

Prediction: Nurmagomedov by submission.

Best Bet: Nurmagomedov by submission at 2.20.

Alternative Bet: Nurmagomedov by KO/TKO/submission/DQ at 1.80.

Matt Schnell (3.85) v Steve Erceg (1.37) (Flyweight)

Lighting the fire to pop off the main card party is a pair of top-15 flyweight. 

As much as fans are excited to see Schnell (16-7) make his return after he missed all of 2023 through injury, the real story of this scrap is whether Australia’s surging Erceg (11-1) will ascent to the next level.

Twelfth-ranked “Astro Boy” has banked 10 straight wins, two of which came in the UFC, and now has the chance to jump into the top 10 by taking out his ninth-ranked opponent.

Schnell has veteran savviness but is 1-3 in his last four and his year away complicates things further. His biggest weakness is his shoddy defence, which has seen him being stopped in all but one of his losses and leaves him primed for another stinging defeat.

Prediction: Erceg by knockout.

Best Bet: Erceg by KO/TKO/DQ at 3.00.

Alternative Bet: Erceg by decision at 3.50.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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