UFC on Fuel 5: Three Things to Watch for at Struve vs. Miocic
Look, I'm not going to bore you with a long intro here. If you like actual fighting and don't care about big names and superstars and all that jazz, the chances are pretty good that you're going to dig Saturday's Fuel TV card from England.
With that said, let me point out three things you should pay attention to on Saturday night—one of which, I believe, is extremely important.
The Health of DaMarques Johnson
Johnson last fought on August 4, where he suffered a brutal knockout loss to Mike Swick on live national television. And yet, here we are, under two months later, and Johnson is getting back in the cage again after taking a fight against Gunnar Nelson on short notice.
I have no idea how Johnson was cleared to train again so soon, much less take an actual fight. After the Swick fight, Johnson was suspended 45 days, with 30 of those being no-contact. He could be cleared for training and competition as long as he is given the OK by a neurologist.
So technically, I guess it's plausible that Johnson was badly concussed under two months ago and saw some sort of doctor who cleared him to return to the cage, where he'll likely get his brain rattled around one more time. But the fact that it's plausible doesn't make it right.
Johnson showed up for the weigh-ins on Friday at 183 pounds. He and Nelson both fight at welterweight, but they agreed to make this one a catchweight bout since Johnson was out of shape and taking the bout on short notice. We have no idea what the catchweight actually was—because the UFC is the commission when in England and they don't really put out this kind of information willingly—but I suspect it was the 175 pounds that Nelson made.
Johnson didn't even come close to making the weight, and he was given an hour to try and shed even more weight. And so on top of the neurological damage he suffered in August, Johnson is now trying to shed weight in ways that are extremely unhealthy for your body.
This is a guy who should not be fighting on Saturday night. Plain and simple, he should not be in the cage. He's clearly out of shape and is not ready for a fight with someone the calibre of Nelson.
The right thing to do here, and I hope the UFC does it, would be to thank Johnson for stepping up on short notice, pay both guys and give them tickets to watch from the stands, because that's a much better option than allowing Johnson to go in the cage on Saturday night.
The UFC Debut of 3 Very Intriguing New Prospects
I already mentioned Gunnar Nelson in the previous section, but there are two other excellent prospects you'll want to keep your eye on who are making their UFC debuts on this card.
Nelson's a fantastic grappler with outstanding credentials, and fans have been clamoring to see him make his way to the UFC for years now. Tom "Kong" Watson is an English favorite and former BAMMA middleweight champion and, if Friday's weigh-ins are to be believed, one hell of a stylish dresser.
And then there's Jimi Manuwa, another BAMMA expat who faces the fabulously bearded Kyle Kingsbury in an early contender for fight of the night honors.
The Emergence of a New Heavyweight Contender (Eventually)
The UFC wants some new blood near the top of the heavyweight division, because they're always trying to prepare for the future. You don't want to get 14-16 months down the road and realize you have no title contenders, and so the process of actually building those contenders starts now, on these little Fuel shows.
Stefan Struve and Stipe Miocic are interesting guys in the division. Neither is a title challenger right now, but that's not the point. The point is that they could be title challengers, if given enough time and space to develop into the kind of fighter that their current skills (and physical attributes) suggest they might eventually be.
After all, Dos Santos used Struve as a stepping-stone on his path to the heavyweight title; why can't Struve and Miocic use each other for the same eventual purpose?
The winner of this fight won't be "in the mix," as Dana White is so fond of saying, but he'll certainly be on the vague exterior of those mixing grounds.
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