It's stunning to see the odds at various sportsbooks for the Heavyweight bout tonight (May 26, 2012) between Stefan Struve and Lavar Johnson at UFC 146, which is scheduled to go down at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Currently, the oddsmakers have pegged late substitute Johnson as a 7-5 favorite.
"Big" boasts one of the inspiring stories in mixed martial arts (MMA), having recovered from multiple gunshot wounds in a senseless drive-by shooting, then rebounding from a bad stretch in Strikeforce to register two impressive stoppage in as many Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bouts. Knockouts of Joey Beltran and Pat Barry in the last five months have made him an emerging name among promotion's heavyweight prospects.
The problem is, Johnson's ground game hasn't evolved. And it's a huge problem. He was steamrolled on the mat by Barry prior to "HD" gassing horribly and Johnson rallying for a first-round finish. Struve, meanwhile, has decent stand up and a really good submission game, not to mention a ton of Octagon experience.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 146 fight between Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson:
Struve has had his ups and down, but the guy is 6'11" and filling out to a solid 255+ pounds. He's also a decent kickboxer who seems to be more comfortable using his height to take advantage of opportunities standing. Struve's ground game is very good from the bottom, which is another advantage. If the dangerous Johnson nails him, Stefan can always pull guard, though his penchant for slugfests could clearly work against him here. Struve's push kicks can be a frustrating tool here, too. It's not like Johnson will counter with a takedown (or should).
Johnson's chances are decent early, but he looked nearly gassed in banging out Joey Beltran. A tough, three-round fight doesn't bode well for him, especially since grappling is incredibly tiring when you operating at a skill level deficit. One-dimensional strikers like Johnson almost always run out of gas once they're put on their back, and if Struve's smart, he'll look to do just that.
Struve all the wall.
He'll steer clear of letting Johnson land a huge early shot, using movement, angles and jabs and push kicks to buy time and let Johnson's technique erode, and his frustration build. Struve's also got a 7-inch height advantage, which make the Muay Thai clinch a great option (and hard as hell to get caught in).
Struve's not an elite Heavyweight, but he's a tough, experienced scrapper with too many tools to lose this one. He'll wear down Johnson and take him deep, winning via submission in the second.
Struve via submission
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 146 results of all the "Dos Santos vs. Mir" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:00 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.
See you later!
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org.