In all sports, we often see battles between youth and experience as older veterans of a sport put their years worth of competitive knowledge into action against their younger counterparts in a test to see whether the old veteran has gasped his last breath in professional sports or if the youthful challenger has what it takes to compete. In the UFC, we see these types of battles on every card. Bouts like Mike Pierce vs. Brock Larson or the battle between Jon Jones and Stephan Bonnar are more recent examples, but there are plenty of examples throughout the history of sports that pit these very different attributes against one another.
Saturday's UFC 107 is no exception. Former UFC heavyweight contender and Strikeforce veteran Paul Buentello (27-10, 3-1 UFC) will make his UFC return against Dutch-born fighter Stefan Struve (17-3, 2-1 UFC) in a battle that pits the 35-year-old power punching veteran against the lanky 21-year-old grappler. Struve will enter this contest following a victory over Chase Gormley at UFC 104 via triangle choke in the first round. Buentello beat up Fedor Emelianenko protege Kiril Sidelnikov back in January on the Affliction:Banned card.
On paper, Struve will enjoy an eight inch height advantage over his opponent and a 84" reach. Buentello's highest recorded reach sits at 77", giving Struve a 7" reach advantage in this fight. While that seems like a incredible amount of length for Buentello to overcome, Struve has a susceptibility to punchers. Most notably, Junior Dos Santos and Denis Stojnic were both effective in their striking, although Struve pulled off an incredible comeback victory over Stojnic.
There are a number of questions to be answered in order to predict how this fight will go down. Can Paul Buentello strike against a much larger opponent like Struve? He certainly has the power and quickness to land on opponents, but it's tough to say whether the quickness of his jabs will work against such a tall opponent. Santos was able to do it, and he was also able to land cleanly on Struve a number of times, buckling him at the knees. Could we see a repeat of that performance?
Buentello's list of previous opponents doesn't inspire confidence as he's fought the who's who of old timers past their prime. His last few competitive fights have been either losing efforts or against unseasoned talent. But he also hasn't had the opportunity to fight in more competitive match-ups in quite some time. The UFC offers that opportunity, and Buentello should take it on Saturday night.
Another question might be whether Buentello can stop a takedown attempt from Struve. I'm not exactly sure if he'll be able to handle such a tall opponent, but I do know that Buentello won't try to wade in Struve's guard. The only way this fight is heading to the ground is if Struve gains the takedown, and he won't have an easy time as Buentello has shown good takedown defense in the past.
While I think Struve has more than a submission chance to win, it's not going to be easy. Buentello's takedown defense is good, and he has a very quick jab combined with knockout producing overhands that could flatten the young Dutchman. Gormley made the mistake of trying to wade in Struve's guard, but I highly doubt that sort of gameplan has ever crossed the mind of Paul Buentello in the last few months. I'll gamble on Buentello with a victory at UFC 107, but Struve might be a good upset pick for bettors.