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Monday Morning Hangover: Stefan Struve gets knocked out of title Hunt

After an action-packed UFC on FUEL TV 8 event in Saitama, Japan, plenty of fighters are still feeling the post-fight buzz, but Stefan Struve is likely suffering from the worst post-fight hangover after seeing his four-fight winning streak and immediate title fight hopes washed away thanks to Mark Hunt's heavy hands. And he has a sore jaw to deal with, too.

Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone with UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann," the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event going down from the Saitama Super Arena last Saturday night (Mar. 2, 2013) in Saitama, Japan.

In what was an exciting night of fights, fans were taken on a trip back in time as one of mixed martial arts (MMA) all-time greats, Wanderlei Silva, treated the local fans to a memorable award-winning performance against Brian Stann, which mirrored his epic battles during his time competing for PRIDE FC.

The "Axe Murderer" was able to get back to his winning ways, knocking out "All American" in the second round, doing what he predicted he would do, just five minutes earlier.

But, while Silva and 10 other combatants were celebrating victory, there were just as many suffering the agony of defeat in "The Land of the Rising Sun," forced to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

Fighters such as Hector Lombard, who was smothered by Yushin Okami for the majority of the bout en route to a clean sweep on the judges' scorecards, and Takanori Gomi, who didn't get any love from the cageside judges, coming up short to Diego Sanchez in a fight many felt "The Fireball Kid" rightfully won.

But, which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now two days removed?

Stefan Struve.

Aside from being knocked silly by the heavy-handed Mark Hunt, "Skyscraper" was forced to take a post-fight trip to the hospital with a broken jaw thanks to a vicious left hook from "Super Samoan."

But, the thing that's probably bugging the Dutch fighter the most, aside from his terrible headache, is the fact that his four-fight win streak and chances at fighting for the UFC heavyweight title anytime soon, were dashed.

The much shorter Hunt was able to (surprisingly) close the distance early and often on the much taller Struve, who was enjoying a 10 inch reach advantage, but for whatever reason, couldn't find a way to capitalize on it.

A exhausted Hunt was able to get in and out at will, tagging Struve with just about everything he threw at him until the New Zealander finally mustered up just enough energy to throw a few vicious hooks that dropped an equally tired "Skyscraper" down for the count in the third and final round.

What puzzled me the most about this fight, however, is the fact that Struve, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who has 16 wins via submission in his back pocket, couldn't submit a man who looks like a fish out of water once the fight hits the ground and has six of his seven losses come via submission.

Now, I know it's easier said the done, however, the submissions were there for the taking as Hunt, who dominated the battle on the feet, played right into Stefan's strength again and again, giving him opportunity after opportunity to submit him, almost tempting Struve to show him his best grappling moves.

Time after time, Hunt was able to thwart all submission attempts from Struve and, oddly enough, it seemed "Super Samoan," who has a history of coming up short more often than not once he is on his back, was content to stay on the ground.

Even if it probably was just to catch a breather.

Every time they hit the ground, I honestly expected the fight to come to an end. I envisioned Struve wrapping his long legs around Hunt's neck/head and trapping him in a triangle...but it never came.

Now, we have to give credit where credit is due. Hunt showed an improved ground game, more so on the defensive side of it, as he refused to throw in the towel on his current Cinderella run and determined to leave Japan with his fourth straight victory.

He did just that as he has now set himself up nicely for a shot at the title (or at least a top contender), even if he isn't currently ranked in the top 10. He does, after all, have the current longest winning streak in the 265-pound division.

But, the fact remains that Struve couldn't take advantage of the gifts Hunt was handing him, failing to capitalize on numerous submission opportunities. If that weren't enough, Stefan couldn't keep the much shorter Hunt at bay with his reach, allowing the hard-hitting New Zealander to close the gap and deliver his powerful punches which spelled the end for "Skyscraper."

Is Struve talented? Without a doubt!

But, the reality of it is, Stefan simply wasn't ready to vie for the title. It's simply not his time.

Though his previous four-fight winning streak may have suggested otherwise, the truth of the matter is, despite having 31 MMA fights under his belt, he has plenty of work to do before he can tango with the likes of Alistair Overeem, Cain Velasquez and Antonio Silva.

The upside?

Stefan has youth on his side and can only get better and has more than enough time to learn from his mistakes and learn how to take advantage of his reach against much smaller opponents such as Hunt and Roy Nelson, two of the shortest heavyweights in the division, who were able to get in and deliver fight ending punches on the much taller foe.

For his next outing, seeing as how he will likely be out for an extended period of time thanks to his broken jaw (watch the finishing blow here), I'd like to see Struve take on Cheick Kongo, should the Parisian come up short against "Big Country" at UFC 159.

Should Kongo best Nelson in New Jersey, then the loser of Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would be just fine.

It would be interesting to see if "Skyscraper" would be as eager to take the fight to the ground against "Big Nog" or "Vai Cavalo," or if he would be forced to quickly learn how to take advantage of his reach in order to prevent from being taken down himself and avoid being submitted for only the second time in his career.

To see who else is hungover from UFC on FUEL TV 8 click here.

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