(Stefan Struve: Tall, young, and Dutch as fuck.)
From short-notice replacements, to submission specialists, to big-ass heavyweights, the UFC will be rolling the dice on a lot of new talent this Saturday at UFC 95, as six of the 20 fighters on the card have never fought in the Octagon before. So which ones will rise to the occasion and which ones are three days away from the most high-profile losses of their careers? Check out the brass-tacks briefing below and draw your own conclusions…
PAULO THIAGO (WW)
?Experience: 10-0 record (7 wins by submission) in Brazilian leagues including Jungle Fight and Storm Samurai.
Will be facing: Josh Koscheck (12-3, 10-3 UFC)
?Lowdown: Well, he’s a brave son-of-a-bitch, for one thing. Thiago is a member of BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion), a Brazilian SWAT-style unit known for fighting the heavily armed drug gangs of Rio de Janeiro. Amnesty International has repeatedly accused the outfit of excessive force in their operations — and Paulo will need some of it when he goes up against one of the UFC’s top five welterweights in his Octagon debut. Thiago is undefeated, and looks great against scrubs, but the jump in competition here is massive. Still, it’s MMA, and a Dos Santos/Werdum-caliber upset is always a possibility.
STEFAN STRUVE (HW)
?Experience: 16-2 record (12 wins by submission), fighting all over Europe. Holds submission wins over UFC vets Colin Robinson and Mario Neto, and has never gone past the second round in any fight.
Will be facing: Junior Dos Santos (7-1, 1-0 UFC)
?Lowdown: Nicknamed "The Skyscraper," Struve stands 6’8" and weighs just 220 pounds. As if his beanpole frame doesn’t make him enough of an anomaly in the UFC’s heavyweight class, he’s also a submission whiz, which will put him at odds with the division’s big wrestlers and strikers. The 21-year-old (as of today) Holland native has been competing professionally since he was 17, and now calls Team Schrijber his home. As Struve told Fighters Only: "I think I can beat most of the guys [in the UFC]. They have five or six really good heavyweights. The other guys…not so good, I think."