The fans were restless and tired throughout the fights last night, at least until the two main events kicked off. If there had ever been a moment needing saving on a lack luster UFC card, it was last night before the final two fights on UFC’s Fuel TV card began in Tokyo, Japan.
Even the Okami vs. Lombard match was painful. I’m happy for Okami, but I think it’s safe to assume Lombard will never successfully climb the middleweight ladder and fight Anderson Silva. He’s just too undersized for the division and for some reason struggles to pull the trigger until it’s too late.
He dropped the first two rounds by 10-9 by my count, because he couldn’t stop Okami from taking him down, even though he was able to pop right back up most of the time, and deliver some aggressive action on his part.
When the third round ended, I honestly wondered if he had scored enough to make it a 10-8 round and push the thing to a draw. But his impressive third round rally wasn’t enough to snag a decision or even a draw. There just isn’t much of a home for him at middleweight, and it was painfully obvious unfortunately.
It looks like the middleweight contenders will continue to clean themselves out of a division that struggles to maintain talent already as it is with Anderson Silva trolling under the bridge to the title, since 2006.
Diego Sanchez didn’t look like the beast of old, nor did his opponent in Takanori Gomi. The fight wasn’t horrible, but neither did it hold the dynamic of two men who were trying to finish the other. In fact that was my biggest gripe of the whole card last night.
It felt like a lot of point fighting, not the stuff that made us all fans of this sport in the first place. But where I’ll always harbor complaints out of convenience, I only need one good fight to bring me back around and that happened in the co-main event.
Hunt vs. Struve delivered. Before the fight began, a list of the UFC’s official top ten heavyweights was displayed on the screen, and even though the bar I was at was too loud for me to hear what was being said, I new one of the analysts were talking about Hunt’s chance at cracking the top ten in the world by beating Struve, of whom was ranked at eight on the list.
The fight started on the feet as usual and periodically went to the ground where Hunt was miraculously able to survive and even threaten Struve at times. I loved how Struve stood and traded leather while Hunt would agilely slip straight shots and fire off bombs of his own. Neither fighter was worried about points in this one.
In the second round Hunt actually took Struve to the ground, which immediately got anyone in the bar who knew either of these fighters to start shaking their heads. But in the way he was able to end the first round in control on the ground, Struve ended the second with the referee stopping him from dropping some impressive ground and pound from the mount.
The third round lasted less than two minutes. Hunt cracked Struve with a hard right and then followed up with a looping left hook that landed flush across Struve’s chin. Hunt did the thing he’s done lately when he KO’s a fighter. He walked away as Struve dropped, as if he knows what hit his opponent, and didn’t need the referee or anyone elses affirmation on the matter.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann was one of those fights that needed no story line or hype. Anyone who knows these two knew this one was going to be viscous. Both men came out swinging immediately, both dropped each other repeatedly, and neither back downed until the fight ended violently.
Silva kicked things off initially when he ran across the cage and both men clashed in a brutal display of vicious strikes, until Stann was caught and dropped for a moment. He wouldn’t be the last to go down between the two of them as both men refused to bend to the offense of the other.
Where some fighters take turns exchanging blows, these two synchronized punches in rapid and lethal precision that saw both eat hard shots and teeter on the brink of losing consciousness at times in the first round.
After Stann delivered a kick to Silva’s nuts, it seemed the momentum might have been changing. As the fight continued in the waning seconds of the first round, Stann was able to drop Silva twice, forboding another rough finish for the former Pride Fighting Champion.
In the second, Silva was hit in the nuts again after another mad scramble between the two fighters ensued, and the ref stopped the action briefly to let him recover. Silva was noticeably slowing down a bit as he started to throw less combinations and as Stann hit Silva with one leg kick after another, Silva seemed content to ploddingly stalk Stann around the cage. Yet instead of the fight slowing down, Silva managed to drop Stann with a right/left combination.
With his well-honed ability to sense his opponent was seriously hurt, Silva blurringly rushed in and was quickly pulled off Stann by the referee after four hard shots went unanswered by his downed opponent.
While both competitors seemed content to go out on their swords, it was amazing to witness the complete and utter disregard these two had for their own personal safety. I honestly believe after watching this slug fest that neither fighter would have lost to any other opponent except for each other last night. It was that damn impressive.
Stann entered the fight a clear favorite, but Silva wouldn’t look like an old man in the rain for this one. This fight is already the best fight of the year and will be hard to top. Yet even though Stann lost, he was gracious in defeat.
“Wanderlei’s always been one of my favorite fighters ever, he’s one of the fighters that inspired me to start this sport and I’m very proud to have been part of his career. As much as this hurts right now, my heart’s broken but I’m still proud to have put my name on the line and to have fought him.”
The writing has been on the wall for a while now that Silva’s career is about over. Whether he decides to leave the sport now or in the future, at least he has a chance to go out on his own terms, and not the way many of his pears have been unceremoniously retired by the next generation of talent in the sport.