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Why UFC on Fuel 8: Silva vs. Stann Matters

Photo via http://fightday.com

Photo via http://fightday.com

As often as not when it comes to UFC on Fuel cards, I hear both casual fans and hardcore MMA enthusiasts say something like, “Thank God I can skip a show this week.” This is in part Zuffa’s own fault. You can’t put on more than 40 cards in a 52 week calendar year and expect every single one to be treated as equally important. Even UFC’s own numbered events tend to suffer – I’ve even attended a few. UFC 130 was not an event anybody needs to go out of their way to see, and UFC is scheduling more events per month now than they ever conceived of in 2011.

The telling thing about that event though is that Brian Stann won one of the night’s best fights, defeating Jorge Santiago by KO at 4:29 of the 1st round, and both fighters have gone in opposite directions since. Santiago lost a unanimous decision to Gunnar Nelson last month and was released by UFC for the third (and possibly last) time, while ‘All American’ Stann has only lost two times since then and both against top ranked fighters – Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping. Stann still feels like a contender at middleweight while Santiago feels like a fighter past his prime.

Speaking of fighters past their prime, ‘The Axe Murderer’ Wanderlei Silva takes on Stann in the main event of UFC on Fuel this weekend. True – Silva’s popularity has not waned with the fans, but Chuck Liddell’s fame did not wane even though Silva was his last big win. Liddell had lost 5 out of 6 when he decided to hang up the gloves, but Silva’s record is equally lackluster with 7 losses in his last 10, with his last “big” win being a unanimous decision over Michael Bisping in 2010. UFC had an important decision to make though for putting on a show in Japan, and given Silva had most of his legendary MMA fights in Pride FC, he was the right main to headline.

Now you might think I’ve actually made the case for why you should skip UFC on Fuel 8 – it seems obvious the younger and less war-weary Stann will easily defeat the long-time fight veteran Silva. Factor number one to consider – Silva may want to end his career on a high note fighting in front of his “home town” fans in Japan at the Saitama Super Arena. Factor number 2 to consider – this is far from a one fight show. The number 9 ranked UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve has an important test against unranked Mark Hunt, who is currently riding a 3 fight win streak, including defeats of Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell. As improbable as it seems, Hunt, a fighter with an 8-7 record, could break into the top ten if he gets his 4th straight win over a ranked opponent like Struve. Given Struve’s chin has been hurt before by the likes of Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson and the K1 veteran Hunt’s biggest weapon is his punch, anything is possible.

There are other important fights on the main Fuel card as well. The middleweight division could be seriously reshaped as 4th ranked Yushin Okami takes on 8th ranked Hector Lombard, with one moving much closer to a title shot and the other getting a serious and possibly devastating setback to their standing in UFC. Diego Sanchez is looking to retain relevancy with a fight against Takanori Gomi, a man who +almost+ never seems to win outside Japan. Combine that with ‘Stun Gun’ vs. ‘Siyar the Great’ at welterweight and you’ve got a hell of a card shaping up, not even counting the fact guys like Riki Fukuda, Takeya Mizugaki and Bruce Leeroy are fighting on the prelims. All of these fights matter – whether for standing in a competitive weight class, or just for job security (UFC is making lots of cuts these days) so UFC on Fuel 8 is a first class event even before you consider my main point: it’s the first time they’ve been back to Japan since Edgar vs. Henderson in February of last year and it may just be Wanderlei Silva’s last fight in Japan. For me at least this makes it a must-see.

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