Photo of Stefan Struve by Mark J. Rebilas via US PRESSWIRE
Despite 11 fights inside the Octagon, Struve (24-5) has been unable to generate any kind of momentum in the 265-pound title race, stringing together a couple of victories before losing big en route to the "mix." That could all change on Saturday night if he's able to win his fourth in a row.
Despite the difficult task in front of him, he's already proven he can never be counted out.
That reputation came just over three years ago, when the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion made its debut in Germany with UFC 99: "The Comeback," a pay-per-view (PPV) aptly named considering what the "Skyscraper" would pull off against "The Menace."
Both fighters were 0-1 inside the Octagon. Interestingly enough, Struve lost to Junior dos Santos in his ZUFFA debut while Stojnic was pounded out by Cain Velasquez. That would be all they had in common, as tempers began to flare as early as the weigh ins, when an intense staredown prompted a hard shove from the Bosnian bully.
Struve, who is a foot taller with a nine inch reach advantage, would exact his bloody revenge on fight night.
Here's how it all went down.
Struve charges forward and opens with a kick that bounces off the galloping Stojnic, who rushes in with punches and drives the towering Dutchman into the fence. The larger heavyweight muscles his way off the cage and back to the center of the Octagon before lunging in with consecutive knees to secure the Plum. His zeal betrays him when a forced takedown instead lands him in guard after dropping to one knee and losing his balance.
"This is a great position here for Stojnic," remarks cageside commentator Joe Rogan.
Struve's stingy guard leaves his aggressor struggling to break wrist control. Hammer fists drop intermittently before "Skyscraper" teases a triangle choke but Stojnic sneaks out the back door and plops back into guard with an axe handle chop on the way down.
Unfazed, the Dutchman slows the pace by working a Kimura.
Stojnic erupts with punches but is once again stymied with a triangle. Struve bails and returns to the arm as the crowd gets restless. Frustrated, Sarajevo striker abandons guard and gets back to his feet. The sheer size of his opponent allows him to find a home for over-the-top hammer fists. The first two find their mark and get chased by a downward elbow.
"He cut him open. He cut him with the elbow, Joe," observes Rogan's broadcast partner, Mike Goldberg.
Within seconds, Struve begins bleeding profusely from a grisly laceration that divides the top of his head. Stojnic knows the finish is near and tees off, but his intended victim won't go without a fight. When "The Menace" takes a break and descends into guard, referee Dan Miragliotta responds to the crimson mask by calling an immediate halt to the action.
Doctors rush in. Rogan predicts the fight is over but is "amazed" when it's not.
Miragliotta returns them to the floor and time promptly expires, giving the corner time to work on their wounded warrior. He's patched up and sent back into the fray where Stojnic is visibly anxious to capitalize. Perhaps too anxious. When Struve opens with a knee, the Golden Glory product dumps him on the floor and follows with fists, but gets his leg tangled up in transition, allowing the Dutchman to reverse roles.
What seemed like a bird in hand for Stojnic, becomes two in the bush for Struve.
"The Menace" is too exhausted to keep the "Skyscraper" from climbing into mount and instinctively attempts to roll, exposing his back. Struve pounces and secures the body triangle. A rear naked choke seems imminent, but Stojnic is proving difficult to finish.
They continue to roll around the floor as Struve alternates between punches and submission attempts, never surrendering his leg-lock despite losing massive amounts of plasma. The clock marches past the halfway mark of the second stanza and Stojnic is flattened out and unable to move. A dozen punches crack the cranium before one final choke attempt.
Stojnic, who doesn't appear to be in any more danger than he was sixty seconds prior, pounds the canvas to call it a night, giving Struve one of the bloodiest and most sensational comebacks in UFC history. He celebrates with a victory lap before collapsing in elation. Struve leaves Germany a winner.
How will he leave Nottingham on Saturday night?