On the main card portion of UFC 130 from the MGM Grand this Saturday, heavyweights Stefan Struve and Travis Browne are sure to deliver an electric outcome. Even in victory, Struve is known for eating spoonfuls of punishment, and Browne is known for handing it out.
Travis "Hapa" Browne emerged in the UFC at the TUF 11 Finale. The undefeated newcomer absolutely clobbered kickboxer James McSweeney, dropping him with a wicked combination, locking him down in half-guard and assailing him with a series of elbows. In his last effort, Browne took on another dangerous kickboxer in Check Kongo at UFC 120, which ended in a unanimous draw when Kongo lost a point for grabbing Browne's shorts.
This was the closest Browne has come to losing in his eleven-fight career, having throttled eight foes by TKO -- six in the first round, and four in less than a minute -- with one submission and decision.
Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve is the young, seven-foot, spaghetti-limbed Dutchman who trains under "Dirty" Bob Schrijber. Struve started pro-MMA in 2005 at age seventeen, and already had eighteen fights under his belt leading up to his Octagon debut versus Junior dos Santos, winning all but two. This is being thrown into the frying pan in every sense of the phrase.
Out of his seven UFC fights, both of his two losses were by TKO -- although admittedly to monstrous punchers in JDS and Roy Nelson -- and even out of the five he won, four opponents were able to tag him repeatedly with strikes. Two were virtually come-from-behind victories due to his porous defense.
Despite coming from a kickboxing background, Struve seems much smoother in his ground game. On the feet, he struggles to capitalize on his reach and has allowed many foes to penetrate both his perimeter and his guard, and everything just seem really loose and wide-open. The stats somewhat reinforce this, with 66% of his wins coming via submission, and less than 25% by strikes.
Criticism aside, there is just something likable about Stefan Struve. Maybe it's just because he's young and improving, he obviously loves to scrap, he's shown excellent fight I.Q., or just because the kid fights his damn heart out and is willing to go out on his shield each and every time we see him.
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For a hefty 6'7" and 250-pounds, Browne is shockingly quick and agile with his striking. He's deceivingly light on his toes and plays a little footwork game to set his combinations up, feinting once or even twice with a certain angle and technique, then aggressively exploding forward with another. Everything he throws is with evil intentions. He's a pure head-hunter to the core, leaving his hands down at his waist and just blasting forward with unchecked malice.
He snaps off clean kicks with his left leg, high and to the body, and seems to key off his left hook in punching sequences, always finding a way to work in his destructive straight right.
Generally, he seems content to stand and trade, but has also shot for takedowns, another technique made more effective by his speed. On the mat, he's a machine, hurling huge ground-and-pound and power-passing through the guard, while casting huge elbows and forearms along the way.
I figured that Struve's name recognition would make Browne the underdog, but the betting lines are anywhere from even to favoring Browne. I suppose it's as simple as a knockout artist facing someone who has consistently been caught with punches.
I'm not sure if Struve's drastic difference in competition and overall experience can make up for some of his technical flaws, so were I a wagering man, logic portends a win for Browne. Even though everything points to the opposite, I'm going to hang my neck out for Struve without any sensible reason.
My Prediction: Struve by submission