UFC on Fuel 8: Keys to Victory for Every Main Card Fighter
Brian Stann will return to the light heavyweight division at UFC on Fuel TV 8 upon the request of Wanderlei Silva, who no longer felt the need to cut to 185 pounds given that his career is beginning to wind to an end.
Both fighters are coming off of losses in their most recent fights, with Stann being outclassed by Michael Bisping and Silva coming up short in a five-round battle with Rich Franklin.
Despite their recent setbacks, Stann and Silva have a reputation of entertaining and are still dangerous opponents for a lot of light heavyweight and middleweights alike.
In addition to the 205-pound main event, UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Tokyo, Japan will feature a number of pivotal bouts across many weight divisions. Let's take a look at some of the keys to victory for each of the main card competitors.
Mizuto Hirota vs. Rani Yahya
Following the close of Strikeforce, Mizuto Hirota became one of many fighters to join the UFC roster.
Hirota did not win in his short time with Strikeforce, only getting one appearance against a tough Pat Healy, but the Japanese fighter will make a move to the 145-pound division for his Octagon debut.
Formerly a WEC bantamweight, Rani Yahya has benefited from a move up in weight, winning two of his past three fights, with his only loss during that time coming against elite contender Chad Mendes.
Though Hirota's only been submitted by the extremely dangerous Shinya Aoki, he won't want to test the submission skills of Yahya in this matchup.
Instead, Hirota will need to keep his distance when standing and pick his shots so as not to leave any opening for a Yahya takedown.
Yahya is one of the better grapplers in the entire featherweight division, so it's no secret he'll be looking to take this fight to the ground early.
The Brazilian can't telegraph his takedown attempts, though, or he may eat an uppercut on the way in. Yahya must circle away from Hirota's power and try to back his opponent into the cage, where he can work more safely for the takedown.
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
Dong Hyun Kim and Siyar Bahadurzada are both coming off of dominant wins over Paulo Thiago.
Bahadurzada knocked the Brazilian out in under one minute, while Kim controlled Thiago with ease on the ground for the entirety of their three-round bout.
Undoubtedly, these fringe contenders will be competing for a step up in competition on the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card.
Dong Hyun Kim
Kim's success is highly dependent on his ability to take opponents down, but Bahadurzada showed against Thiago that he has the ability the counter takedown attempts with knockout blows.
Unlike Thiago, Kim scores more of his takedowns from the clinch, but he'll still need to work his way inside with combination and feints to avoid overextending and leaving himself open to being countered by the dangerous Bahadurzada.
Although he has a handful of submissions on his resume, Bahadurzada would likely be neutralized should he be forced to fight off of his back against Kim.
Bahadurzada needs to sit back and pick his shots when Kim moves forward. The Afghanistan-born welterweight would also be wise to throw mostly uppercuts and straight punches in order to avoid having Kim time one of his combinations with a takedown attempt.
Yushin Okami vs. Hector Lombard
Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard have bounced back from deflating losses to Tim Boetsch, but they are still in need of that big win that would thrust them back into title contention.
One fighter will have a chance to pick up that important victory on Saturday when Okami and Lombard meet one another on the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card.
While Okami may need to wait until Anderson Silva is out of the picture, Lombard is still a fighter many want to see compete against the long-reigning middleweight titleholder.
Facing off against a fighter with the knockout power Lombard has, Okami will obviously want to utilize his wrestling frequently.
It will be important for Okami to avoid stepping straight backward when Lombard rushes forward, as he inevitably will early in the bout.
In the third round of his fight with Okami, Boetsch forced the Japanese middleweight to retreat with power punches, and that led to a stunning come-from-behind knockout.
Possibly possessing even more knockout power than Boetsch, Lombard will want to be much more aggressive against Okami than he was in his fight with Boetsch.
Takanori Gomi vs. Diego Sanchez
Diego Sanchez had his ups and downs in a return to the welterweight division, so he's decided to return to the division where he's had the most success in his career at 155 pounds.
Welcoming Sanchez back to the lightweight class will be Takanori Gomi, who has earned back-to-back wins to put himself on the fringe of title contention.
Should either fighter win this bout impressively, they'll certainly be back in the mix for a 155-pound title shot in 2013.
Usually, engaging in wild exchanges with the granite-chinned Diego Sanchez is a bad idea. However, Gomi has knockout power unmatched by most lightweights in the world and could benefit from a slugfest with the former TUF winner.
It's not difficult to goad Sanchez into that type of fight, and if he does, Gomi won't have to worry as much about being taken down.
Sanchez tends to go wild inside the cage, which works in his favor at times, but he'll need to be cerebral about this matchup.
It's fine to push forward against Gomi, but Sanchez will need to keep his chin down and follow combinations up with takedown attempts to neutralize Gomi's striking.
Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt
With four straight wins, Stefan Struve has broken into the top-10 UFC heavyweights, and he'll have a chance to cement himself as a contender against Mark Hunt at UFC on Fuel TV 8.
Hunt has also been impressive lately and is coming off of a knockout of fellow striker Cheick Kongo.
As a former world-class kickboxer, Hunt will obviously want to keep this fight standing, where Struve will have to prove once again that he has figured out how to use his long reach to keep opponents at distance.
If Hunt is taken to the canvas, he won't last long there with Struve, so that means he'll have to be careful about working his way inside without giving his opponent the chance to pull guard or clinch.
Hunt will need to use head movement to slip the long jabs that will come at him and then land two-punch combinations before getting back out of Struve's range.
It's always possible for Struve to jab away at an opponent for three rounds, but he'll be playing with fire in this matchup if that's the route he chooses to take.
Struve must tuck his chin, establish himself as the aggressor and take this fight to the ground by any means necessary. If Struve gets himself cornered against the fence, Hunt will tee off and put him to sleep.
Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann
With his career winding down, Wanderlei Silva has come to the realization that there's no longer any reason for him to drop to 185 pounds, so he and Brian Stann will return to light heavyweight together for the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main event.
Stann will be returning to middleweight after this bout, but that does not mean this fight is not an important one for him. Even a win over a fading Silva would be huge for Stann's career moving forward.
While Stann is looking to get back on track so that he can contend in the 185-pound division again, Silva is simply out to entertain and do what he was born to do a few more times. Should he be knocked out by Stann, though, Silva may be pressured into retirement.
"The Axe Murderer" will almost certainly come into this fight set on trading bombs with Stann, but that definitely isn't the smartest game plan against an opponent with devastating knockout power.
Instead, Silva should look to throw combinations, change levels and take advantage of Stann's shoddy takedown defense.
Even though he probably has the better chin and greater one-punch knockout power in this matchup, Stann still needs to be smart about getting into a slugfest with Silva.
When Silva comes forward at an opponent, he often does so with looping hooks, so Stann needs to take advantage of that by countering with straights rather than the overhands and uppercuts that he usually generates most of his power with.