Two vastly different heavyweights put on a wild display last night (March 2, 2013) as Mark Hunt battled Stefan Struve in the co-main event of UFC on FUEL TV 8 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Both Hunt and Struve were on solid winning streaks in the heavyweight division with Struve entering the fight on a four fight tear while Hunt was on an improbably three fight streak of his own.
Something had to give.
On a night that had seen eight straight decisions, both Hunt and Struve battered and bruised each other mightily, but it was Hunt who would have the last laugh.
Early on, Hunt tried to score with his strikes but he was having some difficulty finding his range. When he closed the distance, he couldn't quite connect with that huge left hook of his and once Struve got his hands on him, he wisely pulled guard and then swept Hunt with a butterfly sweep directly into full mount.
After some initial resistance, Struve finally postured up and started dropping some serious punishment but when he had Hunt in trouble, he instead chose to dive for a belly-down armbar and he wasn't able to extend Hunt's arm and wound up on bottom again, this time eating a few punches from "The Super Samoan."
In the second round, Hunt opened aggressively, connecting with that leaping left hook of his and starting to find his range as Struve failed to properly keep his distance. Perhaps the former K-1 champion got a bit too overconfident because he tossed Struve to the canvas, which allowed "The Skyscraper" to attack him with a leg lock and also to again gain mount during a scramble.
Struve dropped heavy punches from above once more while postured up, but when he transitioned for an armbar again, he lost his grip on Hunt's arm and slipped to bottom.
Both men came out swinging in the third round and that was to Hunt's advantage as he could take a shot better than Struve and he hit harder. Hunt smashed Struve in the jaw with that leaping left hook of his and really started to turn up the aggression on the feet as both men were exhausted. Struve connected with a head kick that didn't even seem to make Hunt flinch.
Struve began pushing forward and threw a solid right hand, but just when it seemed he might be starting to take back control of the round, Hunt again connected with a combination to back Struve off and wobble him. With Struve playing defense, Hunt went over the top with a right hand and then a massive left hook dropped the seven-footer to the canvas in violent fashion, breaking his jaw and forcing the referee to put a stop to the bout.
For Stefan Struve, while he always brings the fight, he did several things wrong which set up his downfall. His failure to control distance really hurt him on the feet as time and time again, he allowed Hunt to get inside and hurt him with that left hand. Struve had a 10 inch reach advantage but his jab was virtually non-existent. It's hard to keep guys at the end of your punches when you aren't constantly popping them in the face from range.
When the fight entered the grappling realm, Struve did a great job of winning scrambles and sweeping Hunt to secure mount and his ground and pound while postured up was fantastic, but he was way too sloppy when transitioning to the armbar whether it was belly down or not and he allowed Hunt to escape the position both times. It probably would have been wiser to just stay on top and try to win the fight via TKO because it didn't look like Hunt was going to be escaping the precarious position.
For Mark Hunt, he pretty much fought the perfect fight, landing that lunging left hook of his and mixing up to the body whenever Struve defended high. While it probably wasn't the smartest idea to hang out in the grappling department too much with Struve, he held his own and not only survived some submission attempts, but actually turned the tables on "The Skyscraper" and landed a few good ground and pound punches.
One perplexing moment for Hunt was the takedown in the second round after he was starting to really find his range and connect with his strikes on the feet, but he again escaped the bad situation and wound up landing some good blows on the canvas and even passed to side control at one point. The end of the fight was stellar for Hunt as he stood toe to toe with Struve and dished out some serious punishment in a brawl between two men who had left everything in the cage.
When he hurt Struve the last time, he pushed forward and put him down for the count with that massive lunging left hook of his, breaking the seven-footer's jaw and forcing an end to the fight.
Next up for Hunt should be Roy Nelson should he get past Cheick Kongo. Other options include the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Fabricio Werdum winner or hell, even a shot at the heavyweight title. His four fight win streak is the longest current run in the UFC's heavyweight division.