Must-See Fights of the Week

Sylvia vs. Pudzianowski

May 21, 2010
T. Marciniak/

A week without a UFC or Strikeforce event has becoming a rarity, but when it does happen, fans the world over often find the nearest dark corner, assume the fetal position and start doing the junkie’s Harlem shake until they get a proper fix. Not only does it lead to more work than Dr. Drew can handle, but it seems completely unnecessary.

The MMA landscape this week may be free of any UFC or major Strikeforce show, but there are fights out there that every fan needs to see. Mariusz Pudzianowski’s ongoing quest to prove that the Atlas stones are as good a preparation as any for MMA seems reason enough to keep your withdrawal symptoms in check.

The more demanding fight fan has cash-money wrestling converts like Joe Soto, Tyron Woodley and Ben Askren in fights that anyone with a cable subscription will get to see. Squash your plans to overtake the UFC’s front office and force its roster to fight 24/7. Instead, get squared up on the violence to come with a proper breakdown of the fights every MMA follower must see.

Tim Sylvia vs. Mariusz Pudzianowski
Moosin MMA “Sylvia vs. Pudzianowski,” May 21, Worcester, Mass.

Pudzianowski is an altogether unique figure in MMA -- a genetic anomaly that dominated the Strongman circuit and became a national hero in his native Poland, as well as a full-fledged Internet meme thanks to a 1980s-inspired pop music career. The enormous cache to his name makes the handling of his MMA career thus far all the more puzzling, as he will fight Sylvia, the former UFC heavyweight champion, in his third professional bout.

Pudzianowski’s second fight, against Deep stalwart Yusuke Kawaguchi on May 7, revealed the myriad of difficulties he faces in his transition from tossing tires to the most challenging combat sport known to man, save for maybe XARM. Strongman competitions place a heavy premium on sustaining peak muscle performance for brief periods, and Pudzianowski showed as much in his latest outing, as he effortlessly flung Kawaguchi to and fro for the first two minutes of their fight. Not surprisingly, his offensive output lessened with every passing second; the human body simply cannot fuel nearly 300 pounds of muscle for more than a minute or two at a time.

Having little in the way of legitimate training does Pudzianowski no favors in this area, as he throws nothing but arm punches and lunging leg kicks, which serve only to further tax his easily exhausted gas tank. Therein lies Sylvia’s biggest edge -- namely a decade of legitimate MMA training and an unteachable height and reach advantage. They are valuable assets to have since Pudzianowski fancies himself a swarming stand-up fighter. However, his bulging musculature makes it difficult for him to even throw punches correctly or with any real power.

This problem reared its ugly head in Pudzianowski’s bout with Kawaguchi, a puffed-up light heavyweight who managed to outstrike him throughout the second round of their bout with nothing more than leg kicks and basic footwork. Sylvia has much more than that to offer, as his down-the-pipe punching style seems perfectly suited to expose the glaring defensive deficiencies in Pudzianowski’s stance. Being too muscular sounds like a bizarre problem, but Pudzianowski’s chest is so bulky that he cannot close his defensive posture, and his bulbous neck makes it impossible for him to tuck his chin.

Coming at Sylvia with your arms spread and chin out looks like little more than a disaster in the making, and Pudzianowski has no choice but to do so. Slapping a body lock on Sylvia and heaving him to the mat may be his only real offensive option, but Kawaguchi easily stifled Pudzianowski’s ground-and-pound with a basic closed guard. Given the strain of trying to bench press a 6-foot-8, 260-pound slab of humanity and Pudzianowski’s oxygen-hogging muscles, it will only be a matter of minutes before the baddest Pole since Lech Walesa discovers the very real consequences of entering the cage with a true professional.

The halcyon days for Sylvia came and went a long time ago, but there is no way a complete neophyte to high-level combat sports can beat him. What exactly Pudzianowski’s handlers are thinking by allowing him to fight someone with Sylvia’s experience and talent remains anyone’s guess, but an American dollar does convert to 3.25 Polish zlotys. No matter the payday, Sylvia will walk away the real winner by putting down the latest would-be Kraken of the heavyweight class.
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