Hey guys, my newest post at Headkicklegend.com. It continues there after the jump - please check it out, it's all part of SBNation and the nice folks there deserve your hits!
Stefan Struve is an exciting prospect in the heavyweight division, in many ways reminiscent of a young Alistair Overeem; Struve is gangly and lacks bulk, his record is hit and miss but he's fought some great fighters, he's always exciting, and despite constantly being credited as a kickboxer it is his submission skills that brings home the bacon when he is inevitably getting beaten up on the feet. Just as Alistair Overeem began competing with the best in the world under the PRIDE FC banner at the age of nineteen, Struve was thrown in against Junior Dos Santos (who was coming off a knockout over a top ten heavyweight at the time) in his UFC debut at the tender age of twenty years old. His career still very much in it's infancy, Struve has plenty of time to turn himself into a consistent winning machine as Overeem has, the question is how many hard shots he will eat along the way.
Just as many other kickboxers have before him, Struve has a misplaced confidence in his stand up. It seems as though he believes that the mere fact that he has competed as a professional kickboxer will win him the striking portion of a match - and this same overconfidence has cost him greatly against Junior Dos Santos, Roy Nelson and Travis Browne.
Struve's terrific ground game is not in doubt, his sweep of Sean McCorkle, a powerful top player, and his escape from Pat Barry's side control right into a triangle choke was a thing of beauty. The Dutchman's long frame enables him to sneak in chokes with his arms and legs easier than most fighters, particularly at heavyweight where a great guard game is a rare commodity. This is not to say that Struve's ground excellence is entirely a result of his frame, to say that would be to grossly under-appreciate his technique and timing. His basic hip bump sweep on Sean McCorkle, a powerful top player, completely turned the tide of their match and led to a ground and pound TKO for Struve. It is rare that you see such a basic technique used to such effect against a fighter with the size and experience of McCorkle. Despite his status as a "Dutch Kickboxer", 15 of Struve's 22 wins have come by way of submission while only 5 have come by knockout.
The true hole in Struve's game and what is stopping him from achieving greatness is his refusing to fight as tall on the feet as he does on the ground. Stefan Struve is not a small target, and while he possesses the joint longest reach in the UFC, he consistently fails to use it. A drought of strong jabs is not the only ailment in Struve's striking though; he over-commits when he gets any attack going. Just look at Jon Jones - he is NOT a great striker - but he uses his reach in a way that he can attempt almost any striking technique and rarely be punished for it. Jones uses push kicks to the legs (similar to those Condit used to stifle Hardy and Diaz), biting low kicks to the inside and outside of the thigh, and long straight punches from range to keep his opponents off of him, while moving backwards much of the time.
Struve's desire to constantly walk in is not the way a man with an 84 inch reach should fight, he smothers his punches and exposes himself. In the moments of offence he found against McCorkle on the feet, he backed the stockier man against the cage with a hard straight right, then ran in on top of him, exposing his hips to a massive takedown - when he should have stayed back at range so as not to muffle his punches or lose his reach advantage and looked to land another long right hand or jab. His desire to keep moving his feet forward left him right on top of McCorkle for the easiest takedown of McCorkle's life from a position where he should have been in trouble.
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