The UFC’s Fuel cards have been unfairly branded by many fans as the redheaded stepchild of the promotion’s offerings. Perhaps it’s because the Fuel events are generally bereft of the organization’s biggest names; perhaps it’s because they take place on a TV channel nobody bothered to watch or even knew existed before the ink on Zuffa’s deal with Fox dried. Either way, UFC on Fuel 5 stood in stark contrast to the concept of the Fuel shows being lesser products, as those who turned in saw a great mix of competitive decisions, memorable finishes, and compelling performances.
Struve is Starting to Get It
One of my reservations about young heavyweight Stefan Struve (besides the fact that he regularly takes a pounding when grappled into disadvantageous positions) is that he has rarely used his reach effectively in his fights thus far.
For much of his bout against Stipe Miocic, that concern remained. Rather than throw a stinging jab and forcing Miocic to work hard to get into striking range, Struve was content in the opening minutes of the fight to throw his usual looping punches, which effectively reduce his range and level the playing field, making his opponent’s job that much easier.
Then, he started to display a bit of a jab, which is heartening. I know that not everybody wants to work off of the jab, but when you are gifted with size like Struve’s, you have a fucking obligation to use it. It’s your gift and your curse. You know, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and all that other stuff we got lectured with in Spider-man films.
Getting inside on Struve should require balls the size of grapefruits and a strategy penned by Alexander the Great himself. Why isn’t Struve looking at what Jon Jones is doing to poor fools in the light heavyweight division and seeing dollar signs (and Nike symbols) in his head? I know there’s a lot more to Jones than just using his range with a simple jab, but it’d be a good start for Struve if he could develop a truly game-changing jab.
What Should We Make of Hardy’s Performance?
I really expected Dan Hardy to deal with Amir Sadollah a lot more decisively than he did. Sure, he won a clear decision, but he also dropped round one in the eyes of just about everybody on the planet except for ringside judge Aaron Chatfield. The question is, did Sadollah fight better than expected, or has Hardy not progressed in the way we think he has?
I would say the former is more likely the case, but with an asterisk. See, Sadollah is a tough stylistic matchup for Hardy in many ways, anyway, as a clean, technical striker who starts quickly, has a sturdy chin and throws lots of strikes. Hardy simply seemed to get off to a slow start while he was looking for a home for his counter-punches, specifically his left hook.
Though he didn’t get the knockout, people often forget that knockouts are just the byproduct of good, clean strikes, and Hardy landed plenty of good shots throughout the bout. Furthermore, I did like what I saw in terms of his improved wrestling, though “improved wrestling” and “good enough to fend off the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Jon Fitch, and the plethora of other monsters at welterweight” are two very different things.
–I feel bad for Duane “Bang” Ludwig, who is not only the first fighter to ever lose twice in the UFC due to TKO via injury, but who also finds himself on a three-fight losing streak at age 34. As much as I enjoy watching Bang fight, he has looked very hittable in recent years compared to when he was younger, and that does not bode well for someone who has always counted on his striking to make a living. Let’s be honest, he was in deep trouble with Che Mills from the onset of their fight, and the injury likely only expedited the inevitable end result of Mills getting his hand raised.
–Once upon a time, John Hathaway was an undefeated 22-year old who defeated Diego Sanchez with surprising ease at UFC 114. Now, the polish has worn off as he now is clearly just another talented, yet not ultimately extremely memorable young fighter who is content to eke out victories with rudimentary striking and good athleticism. It’s unfortunate, really, but I suppose not every prospect can meet long-term expectations.
Movin’ On Up Award
Brad Pickett and Stefan Struve share this one, as they both seem to be one to two fights from a title opportunity after their performances on Saturday night.
Beautiful Loser Award
Andy Ogle gave a good account of himself in a fight that against Akira Corassani that saw both men get hurt and Corassani get cut with nasty elbows in the third round, although he lost a split decision, nonetheless. The first round was particularly close, and though Ogle lost the fight, he also gave a good first impression in his Octagon debut.
Holy $#!% Award
Brad “One Punch” Pickett showed UFC fans the reason behind his moniker with a scintillating lead right uppercut knockout of excellent striker Yves Jabouin in the first round of their fight. I’m a sucker for a good lead uppercut; it takes real balls to throw it and perfect timing to land it effectively. Furthermore, when it does land effectively, it’s usually a game-changer, as Pickett showed. The fact that he performed the “Gangnam Style” horse-riding dance right afterward (and did a pretty nice job of it, too) only made it all the better.