Wanderlei Silva rose to superstardom in Japan. | Photo: Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
UFC on Fuel TV 8 marks the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun since UFC 144, and the promotion has put together a made-for-Japan fight card. Headlining the bill is Wanderlei Silva, who was the most feared fighter in the sport during his heyday in the Pride Fighting Championships. “The Axe Murderer” is paired with Brian Stann, a foe who figures to be willing to oblige the Brazilian in a crowd-pleasing standup slugfest at the Saitama Super Arena.
Additionally, seven-foot-tall Dutchman Stefan Struve squares off with knockout artist and Pride veteran Mark Hunt in the heavyweight co-feature, while a host of national standouts such as Yushin Okami, Takanori Gomi and Mizuto Hirota, to name a few, are also set to compete on the main draw.
Here is a closer look at UFC on Fuel TV 8, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fuel TV 8 Free Fan Pick’Em
Brian Stann (12-5, 6-4 UFC) vs. Wanderlei Silva (34-12-1, 4-7 UFC)
The Matchup: Stann returns to 205 pounds for a bout with Silva, a matchup for which he had initially angled a couple years back. A former World Extreme Cagefighting light heavyweight champion, the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product has emerged as a top 10 talent at middleweight, although his wrestling deficiencies have been exposed in losses to Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping.
Silva was perhaps the most feared competitor in the world during his Pride Fighting Championships prime, going unbeaten in the Japanese organization during a 20-fight period from September 1999 to October 2004. The former Pride middleweight king has fought inside the Saitama Super Arena 13 times, so he should be well-received in his first bout in Japan since a loss to Mirko Filipovic in 2006.
Now 36 years old, Silva is clearly slowing down after taking part in so many memorable slugfests, but he is still capable of vintage bursts of offense.
In his rematch with Rich Franklin at UFC 147, “The Axe Murderer” struggled to land much in the way of meaningful offense with the exception of a flurry in round two, where he unleashed a stream of unanswered punches that nearly finished the former UFC middleweight titleholder. Prior to that, Silva earned a stoppage of the still-dangerous Cung Le at UFC 139. While he might not be the wrecking machine he once was, Silva only needs a slight opening to inflict serious damage.
For Stann, rounding out his game remains an ongoing process. While he wobbled Bisping briefly with a right hand in the opening round of their UFC 152 matchup, he was neutralized by a pair of takedowns from the Brit in each of the final two frames. Fortunately, the Naval Academy graduate will not have to worry about the threat of a takedown here. Though Silva’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt would likely be useful against someone like Stann, who has not shown great submission defense in the past, the Brazilian knows his legion of Japanese fans did not come to see him engage in a ground battle.
Silva does not usually throw a great volume of strikes, but each punch is attempted with murderous intent. The Brazilian is also vicious and accurate in the clinch, and a barrage of knees from Silva in close quarters can still finish most any opponent.
Stann’s improvement in the standup has been evident as he has progressed from the WEC to the UFC. The wild brawling style he employed early in his career would play right into Silva’s hands, but the former Marine is now a far more technical, patient version of what he once was. Stann’s power and athleticism remain his greatest assets, though he now has a better understanding of when to go for a finish and when to pull back. His ability to use angles and change levels on his strikes -- as well as mixing in the occasional kicks to the legs and body -- should allow him to land more consistently than his opponent. Keeping Silva off-balance could force the Brazilian to be more tentative as the bout advances.
The Pick: This is a great fight for the fans, and it also allows Silva another chance to compete in Japan. Stann will spoil the festivities, however, winning via technical knockout in round two.
Next Fight » Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt