UFC on FUEL TV 8 was billed as a "sick" mixed martial arts (MMA) card, with a star-studded line up that would pop the top off the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on March 2, 2013. The televised main card got off to a "brutal" start, but the action picked up half-way through event ... sorta ... and then ended with a thunderous BANG.
Wanderlei Silva returned to the "Land of the Rising Sun" for the first time since he suffered a devastating head kick knockout loss to Mirko Filipovic during the Pride FC Open Weight Grand Prix tournament way back in 2006. His legendary career seemingly went downhill immediately afterward, losing six of his next nine fights. In fact, retirement was a key storyline coming into his 205-pound main event bout against Brian Stann.
But, then last night happened, even though it seemed like a dream.
Silva and Stann put on an absolutely outstanding show, clobbering each other and falling over the place in phone booth-type exchanges that had both men flirting with unconsciousness. Indeed, "All American" was more than willing to play the dangerous rock 'em, sock em' game that earned "The Axe Murderer" the reputation as a stone-cold killer.
It was an epic fire fight.
Stann dropped Silva to his knees on more than one occasion and the Brazilian didn't back down, responding in kind with powerful body-dropping shots of his own. Perhaps more important, Silva's suspect chin did not betray him, as he was able to disengage, circle and clear the cobwebs before sticking his head back in the beehive.
The action was so fast, and so furious that it was difficult to comprehend what was happening. At times it looked like the wild action was on fast forward (watch full fight video highlights here).
It did appear that Stann was getting the best of the furious flurries before he got clipped in the second round with a straight right hand. Silva followed it up with a hook before Stann hit the floor and it didn't take long for him to finish what he started.
Silva registered a few head bouncers before Stann went stiff.
It was a remarkable finish of a remarkable fight under remarkable circumstances. Not really sure what Silva does next -- it would be great to go out on top, but after a thrilling performance like that, it would be sad to see him hang up the gloves.
Call me delightfully confused.
Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve was the quintessential freak show-looking fight that Japanese fans treasure, with the former more than one-foot short than the latter. Size didn't really seem to matter though because once again, "Skyscraper" demonstrate that he has no clue how to use his tremendous height advantage to his benefit.
For most of the Heavyweight co-main event, Struve was content to stand toe-to-toe with the heavy-handed Hunt. And while he might not be a busy, technical striker, Hunt hits very hard and is incredibly accurate. When he lands, it hurts and most men typically fall down.
Struve was no different.
After a fairly entertaining two rounds, Hunt and Struve slogged into the third round, both exhausted and sucking wind. At times it didn't even appear that Hunt could keep his hands up, while Struve just kept his palms glued to the side of his face, unable to find the energy to throw punches.
Unbelievably, Hunt could barely muster the strength to tee-off on the sitting Dutchman. The former K-1 champion would hurl a few bombs and then stop to recover. But, midway through the final stanza, Hunt uncorked a monster left hook that dropped Struve to mat for good, breaking his jaw in the process.
Hunt threw up his hands in victory as Struve and referee Herb Dean watched, waiting for him to seal the deal with a finishing ground-and-pound sequence. Dean actually instructed him to clean up his mess, but as Hunt was pulled back into the action, he was quickly -- and rightfully -- waived off (watch video highlights here).
It was a fun fight; however, it was painful to watch Hunt try and get to his feet and, when he was upright, be too tired to finish Struve earlier. If he is really serious about taking out a Top 5 division contender in his next appearance, he should also get serious about trimming some of that fat.
It's long overdue.
Speaking of fat fighters, Diego Sanchez returned to the Lightweight division two pounds too heavy to battle Takanori Gomi in a very interesting 155-pound match up. Chants of, "Gomi, Gomi, Gomi!" rained down from rafters in the early going, with the hometown crowd hoping one of its biggest MMA stars could deliver another sparkling performance.
"Fireball Kid" tried his best, but in the end, he was victimized by the ringside judges.
Even though Sanchez came out strong and likely won the first round, Gomi appeared to dominate the final two, beating Sanchez to the punch and clipping him with accurate counter strikes when he would charge in. Sanchez appeared puzzled, unable to really impose his aggressive, ground-and-pound gameplan that has served him so well throughout his career.
That's because Gomi kept his distance and, seemingly, picked him apart on the outside with his superior striking skills.
The judges didn't agree, though, giving "The Dream" the split decision nod in hostile territory, marking his first victory in the division since 2009. It was a close fight, with the FightMetric report (see it here) pretty much affirming that it was a toss up, even though most fight fans, as well as UFC President Dana White, thought Gomi got jobbed in the end.
If Hector Lombard wanted to finally prove that he was a contender in the Middleweight division, he was going to have to get through former 185-pound No. 1 contender, Yushin Okami, who now seemingly serves as gatekeeper of sorts in a very crowded division.
The only thing that "Shango" proved last night was that he is a heavy-handed, tough-talking pretender who is too small for the weight class.
Okami used his significant size advantage to keep careful distance between himself and the crushing Cuban. Lombard did squeak in a few shots, particularly in the third and final frame when he needed a Hail Mary whack, but for a majority of the 15-minute bout he was either on his back or swinging and missing.
Can't hit what you can't catch.
Okami turned Lombard's agression against him, securing takedown-after-takedown each time the former Bellator champion missed with a wild haymaker. Lombard is super easy to figure out -- avoid his power, neutralize him on the ground and win.
Okami is tailor-made to win just that kind of fight, ugly and convincingly, which is what he did via unanimous decision. As a result, "Thunder" trumped "Lightning," winning his third straight and sending Lombard back to South Florida with much to think about.
Like a diet.
It's no big secret that Rani Yahya is going do everything in his power to leverage his ridiculous Brazilian jiu-jitsu arsenal each time he competes inside the Octagon because, well, he's really good at it and not much else.
Mizuto Hirota was tasked with avoiding his dangerous submission attempts and forcing him to fight. Unfortunately for the former Sengoku Lightweight champion, he was able to accomplish the former -- barely -- but not the latter.
Indeed, Yahya clung to "Pugnus" from the opening bell, wrapping him up like a pretzel and throwing everything but the kitchen sink his way, from armbars to triangles to rear-naked chokes. Hirota did a great job defending, especially in the second round when it appeared Yahya had a side choke locked in tight. He survived and went on to have a sold third round against a very tired Yahya.
However, it was a case of too little, too late.
Yahya got the nod from the judges, while Hirota got a badge for "Submission Defense," which does little to contribute toward victory when not combined with any kind of offense.
Just ask Jon Fitch.
Siyar Bahadurzada vowed to make Dong Hyun Kim "pay" for making MMA look ugly, saying that the South Korean stalls and controls his opponents without doing any damage. It was a cool plan, in theory, however when it came to actual execution, Bahadurzada completely whiffed.
"Stun Gun" did what he always does, securing takedowns, launching modest ground-and-pound and riding his way to victory on the judges scorecards. He mixed it up a little this time around, though, throwing some hard knees to Bahadurzada's midsection as the Afghan fighter laid helpless on his back.
Later, Kim played to the crowd, taunting Bahadurzada from the full mount position and throwing telegraphed elbows to his head, all of which were blocked.
Perhaps that's his sad definition of entertaining the fans.
That's enough from us. Now it's your turn to discuss UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann" in the comments section below.
Should Silva continue or go out on top? How long before Hunt gets a Top 10 opponent? Did Sanchez seriously do enough to deserve that decision over Gomi? Should Lombard suck it up and make the 15-pound drop to Welterweight? Impressed with Yahya's one-trick shtick? Will "Stun Gun" ever finish an opponent inside the Octagon again?
Let's hear it, Maniacs.
Be sure to also check out our complete UFC on FUEL TV 8 blow-by-blow coverage of the entire "Silva vs. Stann" event right here. And for a detailed recap of the UFC on FUEL TV "Prelims" bouts on Facebook click here.