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Curtis Blaydes calls Jairzinho Rozenstruick an ‘off-brand version of Derrick Lewis’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It didn’t take long for Curtis Blaydes to realize what he did wrong that led to his knockout loss to Derrick Lewis back in February that likely cost him a shot at the UFC heavyweight title.

Taking nothing away from the punch Lewis landed to end the fight, Blaydes immediately recognized the mistake he made when re-watching the footage.

“That’s what happened. I rushed [the takedown],” Blaydes said when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I didn’t need to rush it but it was a little bit of ego. It’s like I’m beating this guy on the feet, might as well look to put him on the ground now and it wasn’t organic enough. I forced the takedown and paid the price.

“That’s another thing I learned. I’ve been focusing on before I take a takedown attempt, to really get good reactions out of the other guy. Either make him flinch or make him reset or do something. I can’t just go. That’s what I did against Derrick. I just went and I ended up eating an uppercut.”

Blaydes isn’t the first fighter to end up on Lewis’ highlight reel after “The Black Beast” landed a devastating punch to the end the fight but the former junior-college wrestling champion understands that while he lost, he didn’t get beaten down by a vastly superior opponent.

He got caught and that’s a mistake Blaydes knows he can rectify moving forward.

“I think he knows that’s how he wins the majority of his fights,” Blaydes said about Lewis. “His greatest skill is he’s very durable and he just eats a lot of strikes and he draws you in and he either lands that big punch or you get the finish. That time it went his way but I think if we fought 100 more times, I would beat him 99 or 98 more times.

“I don’t believe he’s a better fighter than me. I don’t believe he’s a better striker than me. I believe he hits hard, obviously, but we all hit hard at heavyweight. That’s what made it easier. I look back, I watched it, I broke it down with my coaches. We all believe I won that first round handily and if I would have continued with that game plan, I probably would have won.”

While a rematch with Lewis somewhere down the road might offer a chance at redemption, Blaydes is happy he gets a second opportunity of sorts with his upcoming fight at UFC 266.

On Saturday night, Bladyes faces a similar opponent in heavy-handed striker Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who has the same kind of ability to put an opponent out with a single shot and he’s just as dangerous in the last minute of the fight as he was in the first.

“Jairzinho, he’s like an off-brand version of Derrick Lewis,” Blaydes said. “He’s not looking to do a lot of work. He doesn’t mind going backwards. He doesn’t mind putting his heels on the back of the cage and he’s not the best grappler cause Alistair [Overeem] was able to take him down a few times.

“[Alistair] was able to get him down there and Jairzinho couldn’t work his way up without eating a lot of ground and pound. Alistair’s got good jiu-jitsu but I think my jiu-jitsu has grown and I think I’m at the same skill level as Alistair now on the ground. I believe if he could put him on the ground, I for sure can put him on the ground.”

If it sounds like Blaydes is somehow discounting the dangers that Rozenstruik represents, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, Blaydes knows all too well that if he doesn’t make the necessary adjustments from the loss to Lewis, he could potentially find himself unconscious on the canvas and staring up at the lights at UFC 266.

“I learn from my losses cause they don’t happen often but when they do, I really take the time to look in the mirror and look at what are some of the things I could have done better to avoid that outcome,” Blaydes explained. “We really came down to one conclusion — before I shoot, I need to make guys move.

“When I went for that shot on Derrick, he was already set up. He already had his back leg anchored, he had his hand low. The uppercut was just there and I didn’t do a good job of reading that and paid the price. But that won’t happen again. I will read all those things. I will be prepared for the big shots.”

Blaydes also knows he can strike with anybody in the heavyweight division but he’s never going to shy away from his best weapon and that’s planting an opponent on the ground and beating the hell out of them.

“On the ground, I think I’m leaps and bounds above him,” Blaydes said about Rozenstruik. “I think I’m leaps and bounds above the majority of the heavyweight division if not everyone.

“I feel very confident if we get on the ground, it’s going to be over for him.”

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