Martin McNeil, SB Nation
The UFC's return to England featured plenty of excitement and intrigue, but what does the future hold for the main card fighters?
UFC on FUEL 5 delivered plenty of excitement on both the main card and preliminary card. While the British fighters really struggled in the prelims the main card guys Che Mills, Dan Hardy, and Brad Pickett all came away with victories while Paul Sass put up a great match with Matt Wiman that was arguably FOTN level. The main event of Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic provided us a potential new contender in the heavyweight division. Only two main card fights went the distance in an entertaining night in Nottingham.
I think it's time for some fantasy matchmaking for the winners and losers from tonight's main card. There are no cuts to be had as this was a card lacking in name value but making up for it with good matchmaking and top-to-bottom depth.
- Stefan Struve. After yet another slow start, Struve finally used his reach effectively, sniping away his jab at Stipe Miocic before unleashing accurate power strikes for the unexpected TKO finish. Struve only had one other stoppage via standing strikes and that was against Christian Morecraft. He is developing a more complete game and while he is clearly not a top 5-6 HW despite what Dana White thinks, he deserves a major step up in competition. Struve called out Fabricio Werdum in the post-fight presser, and frankly I'd love to see either that fight or vs. Mark Hunt like originally planned.
- Dan Hardy. It wasn't a very entertaining showing, but Hardy outstruck Sadollah after a slow-ish first round and once he found his rhythm he combined that with his wrestling to earn the decision. I don't really see any major improvements from Hardy, to be honest. That said, the UFC will keep him around with his 2nd win in a row and they'll probably continue to match him up favorably with strikers. I say he gets Josh Neer if he gets past Justin Edwards next week in Minnesota.
- Brad Pickett. He was getting outstruck by Jabouin at times, but Jabouin's lack of power cost him in the end as Pickett unleashed a fabulous uppercut to live up to his "One Punch" nickname. Granted, Pickett hadn't recorded a KO since 2008 but he's still a dangerous striker. His only recent defeats were to Scott Jorgensen and Renan Barao in FOTN performances. At 34 I doubt he becomes an elite contender, but he's fun to watch and highly skilled. A matchup with Eddie Wineland would be a great fight.
- Matt Wiman. "Watt Miman" looked like he set himself up for doom by getting taken down in just 5 seconds. The leading idea was that Wiman needed to test Sass' striking and show a strong anti-wrestling game to get the win, but he showed off his underrated grappling skills and mangled the arm of Sass. Brent Brookhouse said it best on Twitter, Wiman is incredibly underrated, and while he's not championship-level material he is certainly a high-level gatekeeper for those who want to prove they're contenders. He's great in all facets of the sport and a fight with the winner of Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Mark Bocek would be enticing to say the least.
- John Hathaway. That was a boring, uninspiring win for Hathaway, whose hype continue to plummet following his upset over Diego Sanchez two years ago. He hasn't finished a fight since January 2009 and frankly I think his striking can be classified as "point-fighting". I think he gets Sean Pierson for his next fight.
- Che Mills. Certainly unfortunate circumstances for Duane Ludwig, but Mills was dominating him early as expected. Hopefully he isn't rushed into a fight way above his levels so the UFC doesn't have to hype him like he's top 5, and instead face someone like Matt Riddle.
- Stipe Miocic. Everybody hurts ... sometimes. Stipe definitely has a hell of a chin, but his "Golden Gloves" boxing didn't work after round 1 and he was getting tagged over and over again until the end. He's still quite athletic and has a nice build for a heavyweight so I wouldn't drop him just yet, Struve just looked to be better. I'd put him against Shawn Jordan.
- Amir Sadollah. The problem with Amir Sadollah is that he got into the fight game in his late 20s with no prior amateur background. He lacks power and sharpness in his punches and still cannot wrestle. I've been vocal about his perceived "soft schedule" in the past, but there's a reason why he needs it. Perhaps he can bounce back against Chris Clements.
- Yves Jabouin. Very tough loss to take in enemy territory after being on a good run. There's another fighter at 135 who was on a roll until his loss to Mike Easton, and I think Jabouin against Ivan Menjivar is a good fight for both. Neither one is really in a position to contend, at this point in their careers.
- Paul Sass. We still don't know how good a striker he is because yet again the fight went to the ground withing seconds. However, he's young, talented, and a keeper just on his exciting grappling abilities. The loss to Wiman is not a major setback but it certainly shows he still has work to do even on the mat before cracking even fringe contender status. He definitely needs a step down in competition but I don't think he needs another walkover against an inferior grappler, so how about Fabricio Camoes?
- John Maguire. He absolutely A.) Needs to drop to 155 and B.) Not be so passive on the feet. If he stays at welterweight then perhaps a fight with Besam Yousef makes sense. At lightweight he could possibly take on a John Cholish type of fighter. For now he's clearly not ready for primetime and Hathaway was too much to handle.
- Duane Ludwig. Retirement? He's 2-5 in his last 7 UFC fights and that's the 2nd time he's had an injury TKO. "Bang" has had a lengthy career and the wear and tear on his body is starting to catch up with him. I really don't see any reason to keep him and maybe it's best he calls it a day and retire knowing no one has matched his fastest KO in UFC history.