This Saturday night (July 5, 2014), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Stefan Struve and Matt Mitrione will wage war on the main card of UFC 175, airing live at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV) from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
No. 12-ranked Struve was last seen losing a rousing bout to Samoan striker Mark Hunt at UFC on Fuel TV 8 back in March 2013. He broke his jaw during the fight, but that was just the beginning of his woes. It was found that Struve had a leak in one of the aortic valves in his heart and would likely never fight again.
He'll look to rebound strong against Mitrione, who comes in off an impressive first round knockout of Shawn Jordan at The Ultimate Fighter: "China" Finale in early March. "Meathead" has still lost three out of his past five mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, so he's got some work to do in "Sin City."
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Struve vs. Mitrione:
Record: 25-6 overall, 8-4 UFC
Key Wins: Stipe Miocic (UFC on Fuel TV 5), Pat Barry (UFC on Versus 2), Lavar Johnson (UFC 146)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC 95), Mark Hunt (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Travis Browne (UFC 130), Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 21)
Keys to Victory: Given his height and striking prowess, you would think that Struve largely picks apart his opponents using his range. He does have seven knockouts, but wins 16 submission wins, he's probably more dangerous on the mat.
Engaging in slugfests with strikers like Hunt, Browne, and Nelson has seen Struve knocked out too many times for a man of 26 years, so it's in his best interest to use his brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to get the job done here.
Mitrione has a ton of power in his hands, and while he's light years away from the top-level foes that Struve has faced in the past, you can bet "Meathead" is going to be headhunting for a big knockout from the opening bell.
Mitrione's last loss also came to a slick choke from Brendan Schaub. Because of that, Struve should use his size to take this fight to the ground and lock on a decisive hold.
Mitrione has been working on his ground game, but he's never submitted an opponent in his entire career. He also has the mindset of a slugger. That makes this fight a very winnable one for a ground technician like Struve.
Record: 7-3 overall, 7-3 UFC
Key Wins: Shawn Jordan (TUF: "China" Finale), Joey Beltran (UFC 119), Kimbo Slice (UFC 113)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (TUF 16 Finale), Brendan Schaub (UFC 165), Cheick Kongo (UFC 137)
Keys to Victory: Mitrione looked great in his recent win over Jordan. However, he was fighting a power striker with a similar strategy to his own, so that played out right into his hands in China.
Against Struve, he'll be facing an opponent who can take him out where he is weakest, so Mitrione will undoubtedly have to put forth one of his best efforts to pick up a win at UFC 175. He does have the fact that Struve will be suffering from some serious ring rust working in his favor, but "Skyscraper" should also be beyond motivated to prove he can still hack it in the Octagon.
Luckily for "Meathead," Struve's chin has failed his massively in the past, so much so that many were calling for his early retirement even before his heart condition was revealed. Mitrione needs to disrupt Struve and not allow him to find any rhythm.
If Struve is allowed to settle in, he'll begin to transition his strikes into level changes. Mitrione will be in big trouble if he finds himself in a disadvantageous position on the mat, especially Struve's dangerous mount.
Knocking out opponent's is Mitrione's bread and butter, and if can get inside the lanky Struve's striking defense with his excellent movement and accuracy for a big man, the chance to seal up the huge win will be there. He could also get knocked out for trying, but there's always that chance at heavyweight.
Bottom Line from Las Vegas: The bottom line for this fight is that it's going to be an extremely telling one as to whether or not Struve can return from a serious injury and still compete with the top heavyweights in UFC.
He's been knocked out brutally a few too many times, so if he suffers a similar setback against Mitrione, many will be calling for him to stop risking his health by fighting.
But he also has a ton of untapped potential that can be realized if he can get on a solid win streak, making this a high risk-high reward sort of bout for the returning "Skyscraper."
Mitrione has been improving recently, but he's the kind of fighter who looks good against mid-level competition and gets finished by upper echelon combatants.
Struve ranks more towards the latter, and he should be focused on winning. That could spell doom for Mitrione, but he has the power, footwork, and hand speed to make this bout his.
Either way, both of these fighters are proven finishers, and the UFC could use some excitement this Fourth of July. Expect a war (hopefully), and enjoy the fight.
Towering heavyweight Stefan Struve will return to the Octagon after a long layoff to face Matt Mitrione at UFC 175. Will ‘Skyscraper' bounce back with a big win, or will ‘Meathead' add the Dutchman to his list of knockout victims?