This upcoming Saturday night (May 28, 2011) at UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill," two of the biggest men in the UFC heavyweight division will step inside a cage in Las Vegas, Nevada, and punch each other in the face for 15 minutes or less.
Stefan Struve, 6'11," certainly lives up to his "Skyscraper" moniker. He'll be out to register his third consecutive win inside the Octagon, all against opponents who stretch 6'6" or taller. The Dutchman has quickly become a very popular fighter in the UFC thanks in large part to his tenacious fighting style and willingness to buckle down and brawl.
At just 23 years young, Struve still has tons of room for growth (talent-wise), emerging as one of the promotion's brightest heavyweight prospects.
His opponent this weekend, Travis Browne, 6'7," is undefeated, but he's coming off a perplexing draw with Cheick Kongo at UFC 120. Browne is a knockout machine, with eight of his 10 victories coming by way of rendering his opposition unconscious.
"Hapa" is looking add another name to his hit list and continue his rise up the heavyweight ladder.
Has Struve finally added enough muscle to his lanky frame to become a force in the division? Will Browne connect and clean Struve's clock?
Follow me after the jump to find out:
Record: 21-4 overall, 5-2 in the UFC
Key Wins: Christian Morecraft (UFC 117), Paul Buentello (UFC 107), Sean McCorkle (UFC 124)
Key Losses: Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 21), Junior dos Santos (UFC 95), Christian M'Pumbu (Star of Peresvit)
How he got here: Struve built his résumé on the European circuit, testing himself against many of the toughest guys in circulation at the time. After compiling a 16-2 record, he found himself on the UFC 95 undercard, during which he proceeded to get knocked out in less than a minute courtesy of the aforementioned dos Santos. Despite the setback, Struve fascinates fans because of his ridiculous height (6'11") and balls-to-the-wall fighting style.
Since the loss in his promotional debut, Struve has gone 5-1 in the promotion with his only loss being to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10 winner, Roy Nelson. Struve 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 into a contender. Of Struve's 21 career victories, only one has been a decision. His last 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.
How he gets it done: Browne may be a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but Struve should have the edge on the ground. Despite his advantages in that particular area, the Team Schreiber fighter has focused a lot on his striking in recent performances. That's been both a good and bad thing. The good is that he's put on exciting performances against Paul Buentello, Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle. The bad? He's sustained a TON of punishment in the process.
If Struve wants to fight for another 15 years like he's said in some recent interviews, he'll need to stop getting punched in the face so much. "The Skyscraper" has one of the best reaches in the sport, but he has yet to learn to use it well. Maybe all that work with Ghita will finally pay off and we'll see some nice jabs, push kicks and right crosses from the Dutchman.
Look for Struve to try to slip some of Browne's big bombs and land power strikes of his own. With the added muscle to his frame, he's got a little more "oomph" in his strikes so don't be surprised if he ends the fight standing like he did with Morecraft. Worst case scenario, Struve can take the fight to the ground and work his excellent submission game. Word has it, he's been training under old school UFC pioneer Remco Pardoel. And that can only make him even more dangerous on the canvas.
Record: 10-0-1 overall, 1-0-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: James McSweeney (Ultimate Finale 11), Abe Wagner (VFC 30)
Key Losses: None
How he got here: Travis Browne punched his ticket to the UFC with a trio of knockouts in a combined 52 seconds from Nov. 2009 to Feb. 2010. He battled TUF 10 veteran James McSweeney in his UFC debut and cracked the Grudge-trained fighter's skull inside the first round to make his mark in the promotion. Browne was thrown to the wolves in a "sink or swim" match against Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, but Kongo seemed to have a fascination with Browne's shorts, clutching on to them like he'd win a prize afterward. After a point deduction for the blatant shorts-grabbing, the fight was ruled a draw.
Browne will get another shot at a tough heavyweight in Struve to see where he truly stands in the division.
How he gets it done: This one is very simple. Browne needs to punch Struve ... a lot. The Alliance MMA fighter packs some serious power in his hands and has the capability of demolishing "The Skyscraper" if he can land anything significant.
Look for Browne to stand in the pocket and trade bombs with Struve, who hasn't been afraid to exchange with talented strikers in the past. It's cost him twice already. So expect Browne to try his best to "rock-em, sock-em" robots impression until either he or Struve goes down.
If all else fails, Browne trains alongside talented wrestlers like Phil Davis so he can try to shoot for takedowns and work some ground and pound, which he did recently to McSweeney in their fight. Struve has shown in the past in fights with Morecraft and Denis Stojnic that he is capable of getting pounded on if he's on his back.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" here is clearly experience. As Struve stated in our interview here on MMAmania, "The other guys (Travis Browne) fought before the UFC weren't that good." It's true that Browne hasn't faced a significant test yet and the only time he's been in the cage with anyone with a decent résumé (Kongo), he gassed and fought to a rather dull draw.
If Struve can make a smart gameplan with his experience and put Browne into situation's he has yet to see in his young career, he'll likely be able to outmaneuver the American and put him in uncomfortable positions.
Bottom line: This fight is on the main card for a reason. Both of these huge heavyweights love to brawl and fans can expect them to throw bombs until someone loses consciousness. Don't expect this fight to go to the second round, but if it does, it's Struve's fight to lose.
Who will come out on top at UFC 130? Let us know in the comment section below!