Martin McNeil for SB Nation
Stefan Struve wants to be a top five heavyweight and his big knockout victory over Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 5 in Nottingham, England, likely went a long way to accomplishing that.
Conversely, Stipe Miocic, 30, had just nine professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fights under his belt, all victories and all but one by way of stoppage. With three of those wins coming inside the Octagon, he was also ready to compete under the bright lights brought on by a headlining slot.
What better event than UFC on FUEL TV 5? What better place than Nottingham, England? What better time now (Sat., Sept. 29, 2012)?
This was there shot at showcasing their skills to a decent audience (we are talking about FUEL here) with UFC President Dana White ready to push the winner as a rising heavyweight contender who could jump into the top five with an impressive performance.
Round one was relatively slow, both fighters feeling each other out. Miocic had some success going to the body while Struve seemed to struggle to find his range, a near criminal truth considering his size and reach advantage.
The second stanza was where "The Skyscraper" started showing off his skill set, popping a jab and splitting Miocic's defense with hard punches that had the Croatian wobbly and on uneasy legs.
Suddenly, a right hand brought Miocic right back into the fight, backing Struve off momentarily. The comeback was brutal, though, as the Dutchman brought fire with an onslaught of uppercuts mixed with a right straight or two that had Miocic seeing stars and falling out along the cage.
Referee Herb Dean's calls to fight back sounded pleading. The calls were never answered and Struve accomplished his goal of coming into his first ever main event in the UFC and impressively finishing his opponent.
The question now becomes, where does he go from here?
He assumed, with the backing of White, a victory would shoot him into the top five of the heavyweight division. That seems a bit too ambitious considering the talent pool. The weight class isn't the deepest but it's top heavy and breaking into that elite group is no small task.
Does a win over Miocic on a FUEL card get Struve there? Probably not. But it at least puts him in the discussion for a fight against a guy who is already there and that's all he could realistically ask for coming out of this event.