The Ultimate Fighter
Michael DiSanto takes a look back at last Saturday's UFC on FUEL TV event in Nottingham...
STRUVE ANOINTED AS A HEAVYWEIGHT PREFERITI
There was a time when a seven-footer in MMA was nothing more than a circus show. Those days are long gone, as Stefan Struve proved on Saturday night. This seven-footer isn’t a circus show. He is a legitimate contender for the UFC heavyweight championship. His knockout win over Stipe Miocic proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Here is the scary part about Struve: the guy is only 24 years old. That means two things. First, he remains a sponge soaking up knowledge of the sport as he continues to develop his offensive game. This guy has always had a sick ground game, but his striking is truly starting to catch up. It won’t be long before he is equally dangerous on the ground or the feet.
Second, he hasn’t developed his “old man” weight and strength yet. That is equally significant. Struve is significantly more muscular than he was when he debuted in the UFC as a 21-year-old. But he still has room for more. At 251 pounds, he is 14 pounds under the heavyweight limit. I think Struve should pack on another 30 or so and cut down to 265 pounds, just like Brock Lesnar used to. Assuming he retains his quickness and nimbleness with the extra weight, which should be no problem using today’s training techniques, this guy will be that much more dangerous.
Struve is now 9-3 in the UFC, including four in a row. And he is quickly becoming one of the more exciting fighters in the UFC. His last eight fights have ended with a knockout or a submission. That is must-see TV.
By the way, the seven-footer is the tallest competitor in the UFC. His reach, at 84.5 inches, is also the longest in the promotion. But he doesn’t hold that distinction by himself. Some guy named Jon Jones also has an 84.5-inch reach. Starting to understand why so many cognoscenti refer to Jones as a physical freak?
HARDY STARTING TO RIGHT THE SHIP
Dan Hardy started out his UFC career with four consecutive wins. That stretch earned him a shot at UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. It also began a four-fight stretch where he was winless. A long inactive stretch followed, as Hardy tried to rediscover both his confidence and his winning mojo.
“The Outlaw” has now won back-to-back fights, and he is looking more and more like the monster who took the UFC by storm back in 2009. His win over Amir Sadollah was a thorough, methodical beating that expertly mixed his vaunted striking and one of the newer wrinkles in his game—takedowns.
I think Hardy should continue mixing up his offensive attack. He was far too comfortable looking solely for his savage left hook during his first couple of years in the UFC. That almost certainly contributed significantly to his four-fight winless streak. The more he mixes it up going forward; the tougher he is going to be to beat.
PICKETT FINALLY MAKES GOOD ON THE NAME
I’ve got to admit that I seriously doubted Brad Pickett’s moniker. How can someone call himself “one punch” when he didn’t have a single knockout win through his first six UFC / WEC fights? For that matter, he had twice as many submissions as knockouts in his career heading into Saturday night.
And then he unleashed a right uppercut that silenced all of his critics, including me.
When Pickett’s right hand touched Yves Jabouin’s chin, it was nighty night. Jabouin was out before he hit the canvas. It was one of the more spectacular knockouts that I’ve ever seen in the bantamweight division. I guess I’ll give the guy a break on his moniker. Well done, “One Punch.” Well done, indeed.
HATHAWAY KEEPS ON KEEPIN’ ON
Everybody talks about Rory MacDonald as the heir apparent to the UFC welterweight championship. There is no doubt that the 23-year-old competitor has the sort of potential that makes other fighters green with envy. I’m a little surprised that pundits don’t talk about John Hathaway with the same reverence. His win over John Maguire increased his UFC record to 7-1, including wins over Diego Sanchez and Rick Story. Let’s not forget that this guy is only 25 years old, so he is just a baby in the sport.
If I had to guess why he remains significantly farther down the hype totem pole than his slightly younger colleague, it is due to the fact that Hathaway doesn’t finish fights. After starting his UFC career with an impressive first round technical knockout win, Hathaway’s next seven fights have all lasted the full 15 minutes. It’s one thing to win. It’s another to win by submission or knockout.
MacDonald, by contrast, is 4-1 in the UFC, with four finishes. Hathaway will eventually earn a title shot, if he keeps winning. But MacDonald will likely get there first, if he keeps finishing opponents.
CRAZY ENDING FOR MILLS-LUDWIG
Duane “Bang” Ludwig is one tough hombre. I have no idea what happened during his bout with Che Mills. But it was very uncharacteristic for Ludwig to throw in the towel after what appeared to be a non-contact injury to his left knee. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. Non-contact knee injuries happen all the time in other sports. Professional football fans know that. Darrelle Revis, arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week in just such a fashion. But it is exceedingly rare in the UFC.
Mills was understandably frustrated after the fight. The ending was anti-climactic. It was unsatisfying. And it certainly didn’t answer any questions about where either man stands in the welterweight division.
PERALTA MAKES A 145-LB STATEMENT
Robbie Peralta extended his unbeaten streak to 10 fights with a sensational knockout of Jason Young. It was Peralta’s first fight of 2012, despite the fact that the year is basically 75% complete. Despite his serious inactivity this year, Peralta’s fists sent a resounding message to the featherweight division. This guy is no joke. He isn’t yet a household name among UFC featherweight fans. Yet, I think he is only a fight or two away from putting himself at or near the front of the championship challenger queue.