I generally start these things with some minor observations about the card in question, but I’m going to change this one up a bit because UFC on Fuel 8 was different than most events for me. I could go into Pride nostalgia mode (and I certainly did in my post-fight analysis post), but last night was amusing for me because of my company on fight night. Namely, my 83-year-old stepfather who has grown to love MMA almost as much as me. And who is now a big Mark Hunt fan.
Let’s not sugarcoat things here – UFC on Fuel 8 pretty much was a steaming pile of poop all the way up to the Takanori Gomi vs. Diego Sanchez fight, and the decision in that fight was ridiculous. And when you’re 83, I guess your attention span isn’t quite what it used to be. So my dad, in his typical no-BS style, turned to me before the co-main event and said “If these big guys don’t beat the s**t out of each other, I’m giving up on this s**t.” I laughed and told him not to worry, face punching was on deck. Luckily, I was right.
When Hunt bustedjaw with that final devastating 1-2 and walked off like it was nothing, my dad was out of his chair before I was, yelling at the TV and me at the same time. “Now THAT was a fight! That big fella is the only real man I’ve seen tonight! What’s his name again? Tell me all about him!” After I finished my official Pride Living Room Victory Lap and let him know just who in the hell Mark Hunt was in great detail, he simply nodded and smiled. “That’s a real man,” he said. “I won’t forget his name ever again after tonight.”
And I won’t soon forget how Mark Hunt put such a big smile on the old man’s face. Thanks, Mark.
Anyway, let’s get onto why you’re here – the real winners and losers from last night’s card.
Wanderlei Silva – You couldn’t script it any better than it turned out. The Axe Murderer returns to the place where his career climaxed and he whips out the violence one more time to earn a devastating win over a ranked fighter. Who cares if it was at 205. Who cares if Stann fought Silva’s fight and paid the price. It was just a lot of fun to watch, and it was exactly what the UFC needed to get people to come to their next event in Japan.
Mark Hunt – He survived on the ground with a good submission artist. He walked right through everything Struve had for him on the feet, including a brutal head kick in the final round that would have slept a lot of guys. And he broke the dude’s jaw with one of the nastiest combinations I’ve seen in a while. So how does he react to that? He walks off like his work was done and he just heard the dinner bell. How can you not like the guy? Hell, my dad likes the guy! If you still don’t for some reason, there’s something wrong with you.
Yushin Okami – It wasn’t pretty, but no one was really expecting pretty anyway. Okami is still one of the best middleweights in the world, and we shouldn’t let the Tim Boetsch fight cloud our judgement when we’re assessing him. I still don’t understand why the guy gets lit up like a Christmas tree in the final round of fights though. Lombard was teeing off on him and there was absolutely no reason for it. It was odd.
Brian Stann – It would be easy to say that he belongs in the loser category. He got stopped by a fighter ranked lower than him, even if the bout took place outside of the middleweight division. But Stann deserves a ton of credit for showing up and giving the fans the fight they wanted to see even if it wasn’t the best move for his career. He stood right in front of one of the most fearsome strikers in MMA history and didn’t give an inch the entire time. Yes, he came up short. But he got on the mic in the aftermath, gave Wandy his props, and made no excuses. I don’t think I would have said this before last night, but I will pay to watch Brian Stann fight the next time he enters the octagon. And that’s the highest compliment I can pay a fighter.
The legacy of Pride FC – I understand that a lot of newer fans are sick of hearing about Pride, and the truth is that Pride fighters have almost always come up short in the octagon. Sure, Rampage and Shogun waved the flag and won titles and all that, but the “invasion” was pretty one-sided in the end. None of that mattered last night though. Pride’s legendary lightweight champ Takanori Gomi won his fight (but got robbed by the judges). Hunt broke Struve’s face. And watching Silva in the Saitama Super Arena, all the way from Sandstorm to the knockout, was like going back in time. It’s totally fine if you never watched Pride. But if you did and you were a fan, last night was amazingly nostalgic.
Stefan Struve -That loss was a gigantic setback for the big man. He’s still young and all that, but he’s not sniffing the top of the division for a long time after that KO. And his grappling just looked sloppy and loose. It’s pretty clear that he hasn’t figured out how to use his length effectively on the feet, and he apparently didn’t even care enough to try and use it on the floor either. That was a winnable fight for Struve and he gave it away.
Diego Sanchez – I don’t care if he got a gift decision. He just doesn’t look like the Sanchez that has consistently pocketed performance bonuses in the past. He’s not the same fighter at lightweight. He’s just one of those guys like Jake Shields that is naturally stuck between weight divisions and there’s not much he can do about it. He belongs at 170 in my eyes though. Especially if he’s going to fight like that.
Hector Lombard – Hector has one win in three UFC appearances and he’s collecting a monster paycheck. I’m fine with the money, that’s how free agency works and he’s a perfect example of how fighters can benefit from the UFC having a little competition. But this isn’t rocket surgery – the guy has to win fights to stick around. And he’s not. He has world-class skills. But it seems like he’s too small for middleweight.
Siyar Bahadurzada – Knocking out Paulo Thiago was undeniably impressive, and it had some people thinking he was a contender at 170 pretty much right away. But Dong Hyun Kim put a stop to that pretty quickly and exposed Siyar’s weaknesses in the process. This isn’t a Blackzilian thing – Siyar is who he is, and he has been pretty much the same fighter since he was wearing a Shooto belt and fighting in Sengoku. He can knock out damn near anyone, and if the UFC chooses to book him against strikers, he’ll be a star. But he’s not going to be a real contender until he shores up the grappling side of things, and that’s not something that can be addressed overnight.
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