Stefan Struve sports 16 submissions among his 25 victories. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Stefan Struve (25-5, 9-3 UFC) vs. Mark Hunt (8-7, 3-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Having won four straight fights and six of his last seven overall, Struve has quietly emerged as a person of interest in the heavyweight division. He displayed improved power against Stipe Miocic at UFC on Fuel TV 5, recovering from a slow start in the opening stanza to finish the Ohio native with uppercuts and hooks in the second frame. While memories of brutal knockout losses to Junior dos Santos, Roy Nelson and Travis Browne still linger, the seven-foot-tall Struve has proven to be resourceful and resilient in matchups against heavy-handed foes since then.
If the 25-year-old Dutchman can figure out how to use his considerable reach more effectively -- a recurring issue in his career thus far -- and continue to add muscle to his lanky frame, he can potentially become the top 5 big man UFC President Dana White proclaimed him to be after his victory over Miocic.
It has been an interesting journey for Hunt, who entered the UFC on a five-fight skid and was promptly submitted by the unheralded Sean McCorkle in his Octagon debut. It appeared that the New Zealand native was simply playing out the string, getting fights because the promotion had to fulfill a contractual obligation. Hunt has been revitalized since that opening effort, however, notching victories over Chris Tuchscherer, Ben Rothwell and Cheick Kongo in his past three bouts.
In a matchup that was originally scheduled to take place at UFC 146, Struve must avoid an extended standup battle with the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner. Kongo, who had not been finished by strikes in nearly eight years prior to UFC 144, elected to tempt fate against Hunt and paid the price in the form of a first-round technical knockout loss. Despite owning a nine-inch reach advantage, Struve has yet to demonstrate the ability to control range with his jab or with kicks, as multiple foes have been able to get inside on him and land heavy shots.
Hunt is a master of luring opponents into striking range before unleashing numbing power punches. Struve has a tendency to start slowly, but his chin cannot hold up against an onslaught from Hunt. While Hunt’s knockout ability and durability give him plenty of confidence to stand and trade, he is a largely one-dimensional commodity. Although he showed some decent ground skills in an oxygen-starved contest against Rothwell at UFC 135, six of Hunt’s seven career MMA losses have come via tapout.
Struve has never been shy about pulling guard in the face of heavy fire, and that will ultimately be the safest route for him to take here. On the mat, his long limbs allow him to control opponents as he transitions from one submission attempt to another.
The Pick: This will be entertaining while it lasts. If Hunt cannot rock and finish Struve quickly, the Team Schrijber representative will figure out a way to get this to the mat, where he will win via submission late in round one.
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