Heading into Saturday night’s co-main event, it seemed as if everyone involved in the production of UFC on FUEL 8 was actively trying to underperform. Chalk it up to jet lag perhaps, but in a decision-filled card that saw the hype trains of Siyar Bahadurzada and Hector Lombard come to a screeching halt (or in the latter’s case, go completely off the rails and crash into an orphanage), referee and judging incompetence was once again forced down our throats like fat jokes in a Kevin James movie.
Split decisions were seemingly handed out at random, costing Takanori Gomi a much deserved victory over Diego Sanchez and astonishingly nearly granting Lombard one in his lopsided loss to Yushin Okami. Even Herb Dean seemed out of it, at one point threatening a standup in the Kim/Bahadurzada fight while Kim had mount. It was an event that basically highlighted all the negative things Big John McCarthy had to say about the current state of MMA, and one so tedious at times that it managed to draw boos from the Japanese. The Japanese, you guys.
But then, that freakin’ co-main event happened. Was Mark Hunt‘s back and forth brawl with Stefan Struve the most technically advanced thing you’ve ever seen? No, but has any Stefan Struve or Mark Hunt fight ever gone down in that fashion? As with the main event that would come after it, Hunt vs. Struve was a good old fashioned slobberknocker that showcased the heart of its participants more than anything else. And if you can’t appreciate that, well, you probably can’t appreciate the finer points of a crippling meth/child porn addiction either.
(Video highlights of Hunt/Struve courtesy of Fox Sports.)
In the weeks preceding their fight Saturday, Struve could be heard making such obvious statements as “I’m fine…when I keep my distance.” And if I had wheels, I’d be a wagon. Despite possessing the longest reach in the game, Struve seemed content to let Hunt close the distance and leap forward with left hooks at will until, well, one of them broke his jaw. And while Hunt showcased a steadily improving ground game in fending off some of Struve’s submission attempts, should we really start joking about giving the man a title shot? HELLS YES WE SHOULD. If we’re going to feed Antonio Silva to Cain Velasquez again, why not Hunt next? Worst comes to worst, we end up with a heavyweight champion who is actually able to defend his belt three consecutive times (albeit in his second run as champ). Forget throwing Hunt a top 5 opponent like he asked for, GIVE HUNT HIS TITLE SHOT BECAUSE PRIDE.
Speaking of PRIDE, can we just talk about Wanderlei Silva for a moment? Because the PRIDE fanboy in me really, really wants to talk about Wanderlei Silva. In a performance that all but transcended “The Axe Murderer’s” legendary history with PRIDE and the nation of Japan, Wandy and Brian Stann channeled Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama in what quickly became our frontrunner for Fight of the Year. Caution was thrown to the wind with the first exchange of wild haymakers, strategy was granted a similar exit with the second, and by the third exchange, both fighters had both been through Hell and back. But somehow, despite years of abuse and an ever-increasing knockout loss ratio, Wanderlei’s chin held up and even outlasted that of the tough-nosed Marine, until a violent exchange shut Stann’s lights out late in the second. And just like that, Wanderlei cleared another hurdle in his secretive lifelong quest to make Michael Bisping look like a pussy.
And yet, it was a bittersweet moment for most everyone involved. While Wanderlei was able to deliver a vintage performance over a top 10 (at middleweight) opponent, the win was almost immediately followed by talks of his retirement from many of the sport’s pundits. Whereas most of us saw this conversation arising after Wanderlei was KO’d for umpteenth time, now it appears to have risen out of a desire to see Wanderlei retire on the biggest win he will likely score for the rest of his career. Likely. Still, if Wanderlei wants to continue fighting (Spoiler: He does) and continues to put on performances like that, who is going to really protest seeing him in the cage a couple more times? Not I, not I.
You remember how we were mentioning something about the incompetence of MMA judges? Look no further than Diego Sanchez’s fight against Takanori Gomi. Yes, despite missing weight and somehow use that as leverage to taunt his opponent, Sanchez didn’t exactly shine in his return to the lightweight division. Hell, aside from a couple insignificant takedowns, Sanchez was barely able to put together any offense in a fight that saw Gomi stalk the TUF 1 winner for the majority of three rounds (According to Chris Leben, we can credit Diego’s newfound, neutered strategy to Greg Jackson, obvs.). Gomi arguably fought a more complete, disciplined fight than we had seen from “The Fireball Kid” in his UFC career, and was rewarded with a ridiculous split decision loss. Speaking of ridiculous split-decisions…
Not only can we officially label Hector Lombard a UFC bust at this point, but considering he is currently costing the UFC about 10 Jon Fitch’s, we might as well start discussing the possibility of seeing him ousted from the organization in the near future. The Olympic Judoka was thoroughly outgrappled by Yushin Okami in the first two rounds of their main card affair, but did manage to put some combinations together in the third. However, in perhaps the most telling sign of just how different UFC-level competition is from that of Bellator (and how this has affected their former middleweight kingpin), Lombard was able to rock Okami in a moment eerily similar to Okami’s shocking TKO loss to Tim Boetsch last year, which went down in the exact same arena.
Whereas the Hector Lombard of Bellator would have separated Okami’s head from his body with a series of follow up shots, the Lombard of the UFC chose to jump into Okami’s guard, granting him all the time he needed to recover. Hopefully Lombard can take solace in the fact that he was somehow declared the victor by one of the three judges, because of course he was. Take these judges, please.
Thee full results for UFC on FUEL 8 are below, courtesy of MMAWeekly.
Main Bouts (on Fuel TV):
-Wanderlei Silva def. Brian Stann by KO at 4:08, R2
-Mark Hunt def. Stefan Struve by TKO at 1:44, R3
-Diego Sanchez def. Takanori Gomi by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Yushin Okami def. Hector Lombard by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Rani Yahya def. Mizuto Hirota by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Dong Hyun Kim def. Siyar Bahadurzada by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Preliminary Bouts (on Facebook):
-Brad Tavares def. Riki Fukuda by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
-Takeya Mizugaki def. Bryan Caraway by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Kazuki Tokudome def. Cristiano Marcello by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
-Alex Caceres def. Kyung Ho Kang by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Hyun Gyu Lim def. Marcelo Guimaraes by KO at 4:00, R2