HeavyweightsAntonio Silva (19-8-1) vs. Stefan Struve (26-8)
THE MATCHUP: Like the dirty flipside of a coin, this co-main event is in so many ways the polar opposite of the headliner. Whereas Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski are two old heavyweights who have continued to evolve and found new life, Silva and Struve have begun the disappointing slide into divisional irrelevance. For Silva, 36 years old and deprived of the hormone therapy his body needs, this is not a surprising development; for Struve, a 28 year-old giant with serious talent, the decline is a little more perplexing.
Beatings and back-and-forth wars are likely part of the problem for both men. Struve’s most recent was the first decision loss of his career; six of the seven others were knockouts, and Struve has fought back from the brink more than a few times, as well. Despite preventing the finish, however, Struve’s most recent loss was perhaps his most disappointing. Facing off against the painfully inactive Jared Rosholt, Struve just could not get his offense going, a far cry from the gunslinger the young Dutchman used to be.
Silva has absorbed his fair share of punishment, too. Like Struve, “Bigfoot” has been stopped in all but one of his losses, each finish a knockout. Silva’s most recent and most brutal losses coincided with the Nevada Athletic Commission’s decision to ban testosterone replacement therapy. Since that ban in February 2014, Silva has been knocked out three times inside the first five minutes, with his only win coming against Soa Palelei, who tired after winning the first round. Silva also has lacked the ferocity that once made him a top heavyweight.
That leaves us with a fight in which confidence and poise are far more important than style and technique. Struve has the reach, the wrestling and the jiu-jitsu to beat “Bigfoot” on a good day, especially given the technical improvements he showed in his fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Likewise, Silva has the power, strength and top game to take Struve to task on a good day. Who will have a good day? That is the question.
THE ODDS: Struve (-200), Silva (+170)
THE PICK: A win for either man would not be surprising. However, Struve has more facets in his favor. He is eight years younger than Silva; he has made recent improvements in technique; and if tales of his preparation are to be believed, he has explicitly focused on honing the killer instinct that was lacking in his last fight. Struve wins via second-round KO.
Next Fight » Tumenov vs. Nelson