Two of the UFC's brightest heavyweight prospects will throw down tomorrow afternoon (Sept. 29, 2012) as Stefan Struve takes on undefeated Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 5 in Nottingham, England.
Struve has had several brief moments of success in his UFC career, but he's never thrown enough wins together to get in contention. He's currently riding his second three-fight winning streak in the UFC and after co-headlining a pair of shows, he's finally got the main event all to himself. "The Skyscraper" is looking to capitalize on his featured status with a big performance.
Miocic has exploded onto the scene in the last year. After a tough decision victory in his UFC debut, he's grown more comfortable in the cage, defeating consecutive opponents via vicious knockout. After progressing his way up the card, Miocic is already headlining the main event of his first show and he'll be looking to reward the UFC brass for having faith in him.
Will Struve finally put it together and win four straight in the UFC? Can Miocic remain undefeated by toppling "The Skyscraper? What's the key to victory for both men?
Let's find out:
Record: 24-5 overall, 8-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Stefan Struve cut his teeth on the local European circuit, testing himself against many of the toughest guys in circulation at the time. Due to his ridiculous height, he had to develop a strong ground game as his opponents were rather easily able to put him on his back.
He made his UFC debut in early 2009, but was completely unprepared for the wrecking machine that was Junior dos Santos, losing via first round technical knockout.
Since the loss in his promotional debut, Struve has gone 6-2 in the promotion. The young Dutchman has steadily progressed and added some bulk to his frame. He's still still relatively wet behind the ears, but has tons of time to develop his craft as long as he can protect his chin.
Of Struve's 21 career victories, only one has been a decision. His two fights against Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle both underscored what he's all about as a mixed martial artist: Absorbing punishment or being in bad positions and then roaring back in crowd-pleasing fashion. Of course this backfired against Travis Browne at UFC 130 when "The Skyscraper" got toppled after an ill-advised flying knee attempt directly into the big right hand of his opponent.
He bounced back in his last fight against Pat Barry, locking in a triangle choke and surviving a huge powerbomb attempt before forcing the tap and winning "Submission of the Night" honors. He followed up that performance by flustering Dave Herman with his range and then finishing him via ground and pound on the canvas.
How he gets it done: Struve has slowly showcased an improved use of his lengthy 84 inch reach (the second longest in the UFC) throughout his MMA career. While he's improved his tendencies to allow brawlers to get inside and crack him on the jaw, he needs to avoid standing and trading in the pocket with Stipe Miocic at all costs.
Miocic has some scary power on the inside and it's simply not worth it to exchange blows.
Struve doesn't have the build to shoot for the traditional takedowns, but he capable of scoring trip takedowns if he can close the distance and enter the clinch or he can pull guard like he did in his last fight. His best chance to win this fight is to utilize his gangly frame on the canvas.
If "The Skyscraper" can drag Miocic to the canvas, he's going to have to try to stay on top as Miocic has some powerful ground and pound and Struve can't afford to stay on bottom and eat big shots. It'll all be about catching him with a submission and then torquing on it until Miocic taps or snaps.
Record: 9-0 overall, 3-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Stipe Miocic is an athlete, plain and simple. He was a successful collegiate wrestler and baseball player while attending Cleveland State University. After becoming a fireman/paramedic, he was requested to help train with Dan Bobish to prepare the MMA pioneer for an upcoming fight and he never looked back once he'd gotten a taste of MMA.
The former Golden Gloves boxer started his professional career in 2010, winning by knockout in all four of his fights while competing primarily for NAAFS in Ohio. His 2011 got off to an equally impressive start, winning two more fights via strikes before getting the call to the UFC.
The Croation-American made his promotional debut at UFC 136 on the preliminary card against brawler Joey Beltran. Miocic utilized strong kicks while mixing in takedowns to earn a unanimous decision against "The Mexicutioner."
He was pitted against Philip De Fries earlier this year and after eating a few punches in the opening seconds, he knocked the English submission wiz senseless inside the first minute of the first round. He followed that up by handing former kickboxing champion Shane Del Rosario his first career defeat, smashing the Team Oyama fighter via brutal second round ground and pound.
With his impressive start, Miocic will now be headlining his first career show.
How he gets it done: If Miocic is going to win this fight, he needs to get inside. Footwork and explosiveness is going to be incredibly important because if Struve has his way, he could just stand on the outside and patter away with jabs and kicks.
Closing the distance is incredibly important. Struve has been knocked senseless by the three heavy-handed heavyweights who have gotten inside on him and that's exactly what Miocic needs to do if he wants to win.
The other key for Miocic is whether or not he can take the fight to the ground without getting submitted or swept. Struve is extremely awkward to deal with on the canvas and his submission skills are top-notch, but Shane Del Rosario was talented on the ground as well and Miocic pounded the hell out of him. Struve has taken big shots on the ground from the likes of Christian Morecraft so it's not out of the realm of possibility that Miocic can hurt him if not finish him there as well.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor for this fight has to be whether Stefan Struve has finally learned to utilize his reach advantage properly. He's getting better as evidenced by his bout against Pat Barry, but he's not to the point where he can frustrate opponents and hurt them from a distance yet. Also, he still tends to get in trouble if his opponents get inside on him and land a big right hand. If he can't keep Miocic at the end of his punches, he's going to find himself in trouble.
Bottom Line: This is going to be a fantastic heavyweight main event as every Stefan Struve fight is entertaining. "The Skyscraper" brings the excitement and has been given co-main event status on multiple occasions throughout his career. Miocic has looked terrific in his brief UFC career thus far and it'll be interesting to see how he performs. Expectations are high for both men.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 5? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!