Another week another UFC card, it seems. Stay tuned for our PBP, where our own Will Cooling will be there live. Look for him in the front row, that magnificently handsome bastard. Until then it’s time to look at the main card and figure it out.
Stefan Struve vs. Stipe Miocic
Fight Breakdown – Every now and again the UFC likes to throw its prospects up against one another, to see who is ready to take that next step up the ladder. Now it’s time for Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic to see who is going to move up the ladder and into fringe Top 10 category and who won’t. And it should be a barnburner of a fight.
Miocic is a former NCAA division wrestler with significant boxing experience who fights like a bigger version of Chuck Liddell; sprawl and brawl. He may have modeled his look after Mirko Cro-Cop but he fights much more like Liddell did at the end of his UFC run. He mixes in kicks to keep people honest but he relies a lot on his hands to win fights. Look for him to keep this standing and to get within Struve’s reach to land combinations.
Struve’s best shot is hopefully developing a jab sometime in the recent past. Struve is the tallest fighter in the UFC and has probably the highest ceiling of any fighter in the division. He’s remarkably skilled on the ground, especially considering how tall he is, He’s a share under seven feet tall, approximately, Struve is appropriately nicknamed “The Skyscraper” but the one thing he never does is exploit that reach advantage he has. Too often guys get inside and use that to their advantage; and that’s exactly how Miocic can win the fight.
He needs to move in quickly and gauge whether or not Struve has developed a jab. Struve has traditionally been one that doesn’t dictate space with his opponent well and Miocic has a clear advantage on his feet; he can sprawl and brawl his way in and out. Struve isn’t going to take him down, and Miocic isn’t going to play the guard game with him.
Struve hits hard, which is to his advantage, because he has such powerful leverage in his height. He doesn’t have to zing in punches to generate power because of his sheer length. His key to winning is to use his length on the feet and get it to the ground by whatever means possible. We don’t know how well Miocic will handle someone with Struve’s length and BJJ ability off his back.
Why It Matters – A win here is a win of prospects graduating to someone on the fringe of being a contender.
Prediction – Miocic by KO
Dan Hardy vs. Amir Sadollah
Fight Breakdown – On one hand you have England’s best recognized fighter that isn’t named “Michael Bisping.” And on the other you have the poster boy for developing as a fighter outside the UFC. Put them together and you have Dan Hardy vs. Amir Sadollah, one of those co-main event fights that only makes sense on a Fuel card in England. Anywhere else in the world and this is an FX prelim.
The key to the fight will be whether or not Sadollah can get the fight to the ground. Hardy isn’t good off his back despite his BJJ pedigree but the thing that can win fights for him is his ability to throw down. Hardy is a crowd-pleasing brawler with a vicious left hook but as soon as he gets on his back he generally can be held down fairly effectively. Top level wrestlers in the division have done so in the past but here’s the thing: Amir Sadollah isn’t a high level wrestler.
He’s quite versed in submissions and has a good standup game but he’s the type that can be lured into a brawl. And that’s exactly what Dan Hardy wants: to slug it out. It’s what has made Hardy a crowd pleaser over the years and is why it’s being placed this high up on the card. Look for Hardy to sprawl and brawl, looking to uncork that left hook.
Why It Matters – Hardy is a UFC & fan favorite because he usually tends to deliver exciting fights. He may have been destroyed by GSP, and thus probably his chances at another UFC title shot in the future, but if he puts together another 3-4 wins he could be in a big money fight. At this point he just needs to string together some wins in the same manner he strung together losses. Sadollah, on the other hand, has a ceiling we’ve figured out. He’s a solid fighter and the finishing school for prospects. If you can beat Amir you move up at welterweight, it seems, and if you can’t you’re probably not long for the UFC.
Prediction – Hardy by UD
John Hathaway vs. John Maguire
Fight Breakdown – John Maguire likes to tap guys out. John Hathaway likes to knock them out. And they’re Brits fighting in front of a hometown crowd; this oozes of “fight of the night.”
Why It Matters – A nod to UK fans in an All-England matchup, the winner here gets a bigger name and a shot at closing in on the Top 10 with a win.
Prediction – Hathaway by UD
Brad Pickett vs Yves Jabouin
Fight Breakdown – Pickett’s a British boxer turned cage-fighter with a swank submission game. Jabouin has beautiful striking but isn’t the best at the ground game. Pickett needs to get inside and get him to the ground to work his ground game; Jabouin needs to keep him at a distance with his leg kicks and work from there.
Why It Matters – Both guys have gotten to the cusp of elite and faltered; a win here and it’s back up the ranks. A loss here and someone’s fighting to stay in the UFC.
Prediction – Pickett by submission
Paul Sass vs Matt Wiman
Fight Breakdown – Paul Sass is in that same place Edson Barboza was before the Jamie Varner fight; in need of a signature win against a name opponent to make the leap from prospect to potential contender. Usually that comes with a tough opponent who has a great name but not a high ceiling (or so we think). That’s Wiman, who’s a tough guy who’s been able to stick around since the inaugural season of lightweights on “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The key to the fight will be whether or not Sass gets him to the ground. He’s not as versed in striking as he is in submissions and that’s where Wiman will win the fight. He has to keep this standing and keep Sass from getting a hold of him; he essentially has to run the same game plan Marcus Brimage ran against Jimmy Hettes at UFC 152. He does that he can win. He gets to the ground and Sass can tap him easily; he caught Jacob Volkmann fairly quickly and Volkmann’s ground credentials are stellar.
Why It Matters – Sass wins and it’s up to someone who matters. Wiman wins and he moves up a little bit.
Prediction – Sass by submission
Che Mills vs Duane Ludwig
Fight Breakdown – Che Mills is a highly thought of prospect who just took the beatdown of his life against Rory MacDonald. The shine is off him a little bit because it feels like he was brought in to be the UFC equivalent of a pro wrestling “suck” … you know, the guys who always get beaten and start every match in the ring sans entrance. Mills looked like Barry Horowitz against MacDonald’s Hulk Hogan and now he gets a shot at a bit of redemption. Thus he gets Duane Ludwig, owner of the fastest KO in UFC history, and one of the guys that determines how high your ceiling really is in the UFC.
Mills was supposed to be the guy to win the “UK vs. USA” TUF and ended up not even making it on the show; he skidded, career wise, shortly thereafter and got no favors against MacDonald. If he’s going to show the promise he did in BAMMA, et al, he has to do it right now. He’s in a winnable fight against a guy tailor-made for him. Mills has some boom in his hands and Ludwig isn’t a fan of wrestling matches, either. Look for a highly technical brawl.
Why It Matters – A loss here, especially a bad one, and someone’s back to the regional scene. Desperate men fight desperately, as well.
Prediction – Mills via KO