In the main event of yesterday's UFC on Fuel show, Stefan Struve stopped Stipe Miocic in the second round, moving himself even further up the UFC Heavyweight ladder. It was an impressive win, and moves Struve up to 25-5 in his career, 9-3 in the UFC, and puts him on a 4 fight win streak, all against notable opposition.
Yet despite the win, Struve remains a much criticized fighter. That criticism focuses on the same issue that has followed Struve throughout his UFC career - his failure to accurately use his reach in the stand-up. Our own Jack Slack excellently articulated why Struve is not playing to his natural physical strengths. The whole article is worth a read, and I won't repeat what Jack said except to say that he's right. Struve could use his jab more, could change his defense, could improve his striking.
But we are so focused on Struve not taking advantage of his reach that we are ignoring the obvious truth in front of us - that Stefan Struve is a seriously talented fighter, and belongs in the upper reaches of the UFC Heavyweight division.
Struve's win streak is impressive on paper, but when you break it down and look at the fights, it's even better. In the last two years, Struve has grown into his body more, becoming a physically stronger fighter. He's improved his ground game, using his long limbs to lock on powerful submissions. He still relies on his tough chin and huge heart, but he's become smarter and less willing to engage in wild shoot-outs. The end result is a fighter who has the ability to submit most Heavyweights on the mat, who is difficult to stop, and who does have the power to cause his opponent troubles on the feet.
However, the analysis of Struve often overlooks these strengths, instead focusing on his poor use of reach. I am guilty of this myself, as I felt in my gut that Struve would win, yet talked myself into the idea that he has nothing for Miocic. I was wrong. And why? Because I was so focused on evaluating the fighter that I thought Struve should be, I did not pay attention to the fighter Struve actually has become.
With his win over Miocic, Struve made a clear statement - he is a force in the Heavyweight division. Anyone who misses that because they are only focused on his reach is missing the big picture. Stefan Struve proved that to me on Saturday. Now I just hope I remember when his next fight rolls around.