UFC on Fuel 8 Fight Card: Which Fighter Has the Most to Lose
Saturday night, the UFC makes their way back to Japan for a riveting night of action and combat entertainment. At UFC on Fuel 8, some of the biggest stars in PRIDE history will return to the country where they found fame and look to score another big win in the land of the rising sun.
With 11 total fights on the card, there are several pugilists who have a lot on the line. Aging legend Wanderlei Silva is looking to return to his winning ways against U.S. Marine and ultra-popular middleweight Brian Stann. Meanwhile, Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve hope to inch their way towards the top of the heavyweight division.
And although the preliminary card doesn't have the name value of some of the more recent events, this card marks the return of Hawaiian dark horse Brad Tavares, who looks to continue ascending the ladder when he meets former DEEP champion Riki Fukuda.
But for every star that has something to gain, there is someone who is also on the cusp of losing everything that they have worked so hard to achieve.
Who has the most to lose? Some might argue that it's Wanderlei Silva. After all, the former PRIDE middleweight champion is on the last legs of his historic career, and many argue that a loss against Brian Stann unquestionably marks the end of his time in this sport.
However, after losses in seven of his last 10 fights, the legacy of Silva has already been reduced from "unstoppable monster" to "legend who fought too long past his prime." Once that threshold has been crossed, the damage is already done.
Who has the most to lose on Saturday?
So, if Wanderlei isn't the man with the most to lose, who is?
Diego Sanchez and Hector Lombard are both fighters who have seen their better days in the eyes of fans. Both men were once on an indisputable collision course with a title shot, but had those hopes dashed with an untimely loss. If either man loses on Saturday night, it will mark a pivotal alteration in their career path and forever keep them from their golden opportunities.
However, neither man currently has enough momentum to possibly be considered the man with the most to lose.
Instead of these men, the fighter with the most to lose on Saturday night is none other than Mark Hunt.
The "Super Samoan" entered the Octagon for the first time in 2010 on the back of five-consecutive losses. It was a dark time in his career and it became even darker when he was submitted only 63 seconds into his promotional debut.
And then the turnaround began.
Over the course of the next 18 months, Hunt suddenly became capable of shutting down grapplers and strikers alike with wins over Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell and wrestler Chris Tuchscherer. In that time, the usually-chubby Hunt has worked himself into the best shape of his career to get into a title picture.
Talks of a title shot weren't prominent until Alistair Overeem was removed from UFC 146 due to a failed pre-fight drug test. When champion Junior dos Santos needed a new opponent, Hunt's days as a K-1 world champion made him a nice stylistic matchup, while his recent wins gave him credibility as a challenger.
Fans around the world campaigned to earn the PRIDE star a title fight and the #RallyForHunt was born. Although Frank Mir ultimately got the shot, Hunt's name being thrust into the title scene got the attention of MMA media and UFC president Dana White alike.
On Saturday night, Hunt meets submission specialist Stefan Struve in the evening's co-main event. Considering that Hunt's career losses are mostly by first-round submission, if he succumbs to his perceived Achilles' heel, all of this rebuilding will have been for naught.
To go from a surging heavyweight on the cusp of title contention to a middle-of-the-pack striker would be a tremendous setback for the 38-year-old. That is why he has the most to lose.
For more on UFC on Fuel 8, stay tuned to Bleacher Report MMA.
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