Stefan Struve: Will His Youth Come Back to Haunt Him in the UFC?

McKinley NobleCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

Stefan Struve's chin is extremely solid for such a young heavyweight. But is he running out of time?
Stefan Struve's chin is extremely solid for such a young heavyweight. But is he running out of time?Matt Ryerson-US PRESSWIRE

Stefan Struve is one of the most physically gifted heavyweight fighters in the UFC, but will his young age wind up hurting him in the long run?

When you break it down, it's really a question of how quickly and efficiently Struve can develop his stand-up game. He might have a good chin, but right now, there's no telling whether it'll get more or less resilient to the shots he's been taking in his fights.

Unlike most skills in mixed martial arts, a strong chin isn't something you can develop or train—you either have it or you don't.

That's been a consistent factor with many MMA fighters who either suffer lots of knockout loses or rarely go down to strikes.

But one thing that can happen to a strong chin is deterioration.

Like a stone getting shaved down by the elements over time, a fighter who continually takes shots to the head can end up having a chin that goes from granite to cookie dough. Just look at Andrei Arlovski, Keith Jardine or Chuck Liddell.

For Struve, the problem is that he started MMA at such a young age in the biggest division possible.

Considering his athletic history, the issue becomes even more pronounced.

Struve played football in his early childhood and made his amateur MMA debut at 16 years old. From his early string of submission wins over the years (most of them ending in the first round), it seems that Struve smartly used his massive size to snare and finish opponents quickly.

But ever since entering the UFC, Struve has suffered three brutal knockout losses, with many of his other fights turning into flinch-worthy wars of attrition.

Granted, Struve survives these wars more often than not.

But there's still an overhanging truth in all of this—Struve is still incredibly young to be taking such punishment in his fighting career, and he shouldn't have to do so.

If Jon Jones can keep opponents from getting to him at 6'4" with 84.5 inches of reach, most heavyweights shouldn't be able to get inside on the "The Skyscraper"—a monstrous 7'0" giant carrying the same wingspan—with such consistency.

Unless Stefan Struve learns how to better protect his chin, there's a legitimate risk that he'll start getting put to sleep in situations where he merely gets stunned. Hopefully, someone teaches him how—before it's too late.

[McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and FightFans Radio writer. His work has appeared in GamePro, Macworld and PC World. Talk with him on Twitter.]