The Blueprint 03.01.13: Spaghetti vs. Meatball
Posted by Patrick Mullin on 03.01.2013
We were due for a treat way back at UFC 146 as Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve were slated to cross paths in the octagon. Unfortunately injuries to Hunt knocked that fight off the card and Struve went on to beat late sub Lavar Johnson. Hunt is eager to return against Struve but does he have what it takes to win? Read it here in The Blueprint.
Welcome back everyone to another edition of The Blueprint. Last week we correctly predicted that Lyoto Machida would beat Dan Henderson although he did not finish him. This week we get a fight that heavyweight MMA enthusiast and my tag team partner Mark Radulich is no doubt looking forward to and has been since May of last year. At the all heavyweight UFC 146 event we were robbed of a fight between MMA's favorite "Cinderella Story" Mark Hunt and the "Skyscraper" Stefan Struve. A knee injury struck Hunt ten days before the fight and he was forced to withdraw. Struve beat replacement Lavar Johnson, but Hunt is a different level of striker.
Struve followed up his performance against Johnson with an impressive victory over much hyped prospect Stipe Miocic. Against Miocic we saw an improved Struve use good hard strikes to get the win over his highly touted opponent. Hunt meanwhile has not fought since his win over Cheick Kongo in Japan at UFC 144 just over a year ago. While a knee injury can be quite serious, Hunt has had ample time to recover. It remains to be seen if not having a different opponent will play to Hunt's favor as he's now been prepping to fight Struve since last May. We'll begin our look with the meatball.
Mark "Super Samoan" Hunt
Height: 5'10 Reach: 74 inches Record: 8 Wins(5 KO, 3 Decision) 7 Losses(1 KO, 6 Submission) Strengths: KO Power, Strong Chin, High Striking Accuracy Weaknesses: Grappling, Stamina, Lack of Speed
Mark Hunt's Keys to Victory
1) Stay Low - Hunt is giving away over one foot in height to Stefan Struve in this fight. While on paper this would appear to be a disadvantage it's going to be a boon for Hunt. Struve is a grappler and is going to want to get close to Hunt in order to try to take him down. Hunt's low center of gravity will make him difficult for Struve to get him down, so if Hunt can fight out of a crouch a little bit like Joe Frazier or Jack Dempsey he can really make being taken down difficult. This will also allow Hunt more explosion on his punches bringing them from underneath Struve's reach.
2) Strike in Combinations - Following up on point number one about staying low and getting underneath Struve's attack its going to be vital for Hunt to throw several strikes at a time. Why you ask? Because A) the likelihood of landing strikes is increased the more of them you throw and B) Struve doesn't move his head so if you do happen to land a strike its very likely you'll have success with quick follow up strikes. Hunt definitely has the power to hurt Struve, who has shown a very questionable chin, and if he gets him hurt he cannot afford to give him the opportunity to recover.
If Hunt is able to land a good shot to Struve and hurt him he needs to have another 2 or 3 shots coming behind that one. Hunt loading up and looking for one big shot to take Struve out allows for Struve to score points by staying on the outside away from Hunt and using leg kicks or long jabs to score points should he chose to fight that way. Hunt would be making a huge mistake by trying to play the point scoring game. He doesn't have the speed, range, or stamina to win that battle.
3) Work the Body - With the size differential in our combatants its a great idea for the shorter man to work punches, kicks, and knees to the body of his much longer and leaner opponent. The first benefit of this attack is that it will likely force Struve to lower his guard and lean outward to protect his beaten up midsection. This opens up striking opportunities to his chin where Hunt is able to turn his lights out and put his fourth UFC win on his record.
However he will also attempt to balance the battle of the gas tank by attacking Struve's body. Hunt's conditioning, or lack thereof, is almost as legendary as his chin and striking prowess. By attacking Struve in the body he will do himself a major favor as if this fight goes any length of time he'll have a better chance of winning by causing Struve to tire as well. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, but fatigue and a questionable chin tend to make losers out of people too.
Mark Hunt's Perfect Strategy - Hunt's best chance in this fight would be for him to stay low and work behind a jab to back Struve up. As soon as he's found his range and has Struve extending his arms to reach him and giving up protecting his chin he can unleash punches to Struve's chin and body that will likely turn his lights out. Hunt should try to avoid having this fight get out of the first round as even his distinct stand up advantage can easily be nullified if he's too tired to pull the trigger quickly.
1) Get Him Down - Simply put this is the easiest path for a victory for Struve. Of Hunt's seven losses in his MMA career six of them have come by way of submission, including one to the much smaller Gegard Mousasi. With Struve's long limbs and much more advanced technique in the grappling game he can end the fight in short order should he bring Hunt to the mat. Despite training with American Top Team and improving his all around MMA game, Hunt is still a guy who can ill afford to have to grapple with nearly anyone in the UFC Heavyweight division.
2) Keep Moving - While Struve showed improvement in his stand up game against Dave Herman in his most recent bout, he was still very inept defensively and fought a guy who is primarily a wrestler not a striker. Against Mark Hunt he's fighting a high level striker who has the potential to end his night quickly. What Struve lacks in head movement and anticipation he can make up for by constantly moving around the cage. The desired effect of this is to kill two birds with one stone.
By refusing to stand still and be a stationary target Struve is going to be able to stand a much better chance of avoiding those big Samoan bombs coming at him. He's also going to force Mark Hunt to expend a lot of energy by having to chase him and likely missing a fair share of those big strikes. Even if Struve gives away the first round and potentially the second Mark Hunt is a very tired fighter by the third round. He becomes a ripe target for the takedown and either a submission finish or being TKO'd simply by being too tired to adequately defend himself.
3) Body Kicks - Normally to control distance I always advocate a strong jab over kicks. The reason is because the jab is much safer and more practical. Every kick has a punch counter and also leaves you prone to being taken down. However in this bout Struve's immense height advantage limits the viable punch counters to his kicks. In addition if Hunt is able to catch one of Struve's kicks and takes Struve down then the fight goes right into Stefan's wheelhouse.
Hunt on top of you can seem like a very bad thing because he weighs 265 pounds and has vicious power. However when you're as good on the ground as Struve is fighting against someone with very limited grappling skills he couldn't be more comfortable. Struve's long legs make it that much easier for him to try to armbar, triangle, or sweep Hunt and its very likely that Mark is not able to defend against these submissions or techniques well at all.
Stefan Struve's Perfect Strategy - Struve must start by staying away from Hunt. Don't go in there and try to shoot or clinch. Dance and make Hunt try to come to you and while he's coming throw kicks to try and discourage him. If he does get close don't let him strike, tie him up and even if you can't bring him down then just hold until a break is called by the referee. Midway through round two you'll visibly see Mark Hunt tire and at that point you can work kicks through the end of the round and then go for the jugular in round three and put him on the mat to finish the fight.
Final Prediction - Perhaps no fights are more interesting than the ones where opponents each are strong where the other is weak. Hunt's strength lies in his kickboxing, which has proven to be Struve's problem in his career. Struve's strength is his grappling, which has in 6 out of 7 losses led to Hunt's defeat. So we again come to the realization that it's all about who can better apply their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.
This is a case where I favor Hunt. Struve is a terrible judge of distance and has never corrected his problem of standing with his chin held high. He also has to get close to Hunt in order to win the fight the way he wants to and that opens him up to Hunt's punches. I have more faith that Hunt can clip Struve on the way in than Struve can take Hunt's punches in order to take him down. I worry for Struve's future at this point as even though he's a young man he's been knocked out several times and is likely to once again. This type of punishment to a fighter this young can lead to very bad things later on and Struve may want to consider retirement should he lose to Hunt via KO. The damage may not be worth the "reward".
And Your Winner Is… - Mark Hunt, KO, Round 1
That's all for this week. Tune in Sunday night for another edition of the 411 Ground and Pound Radio Show as myself, Mark Radulich, and Jeffrey Harris will recap all the goings on from UFC on Fuel TV from Japan and preview UFC 158 GSP vs. Nick Diaz. That's 9pm Sunday EST on Blogtalk Radio and don't forget to call in at (323) 657-0901.