UFC 107 hits Memphis, Tenn., tomorrow night for what was supposed to be a Quinton "Rampage" Jackson homecoming. Of course, we all know what happened next...
Though a couple high-profile matchups have made their way off this card, UFC 107 is still a great card from top to bottom and offers yet another opportunity for myself and Robert Gardner to go all Creature vs. Creature on you.
Breaking from the routine of covering the biggest names on the bill, this time around we tackle the opening bout on the pay-per-view broadcast.
While the returning Paul Buentello gets the positive push from my colleague, I'm standing firmly in the corner of his emerging, young, Dutch opponent, Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve.
Just 21 years old, Struve has put together back-to-back wins in the UFC since taking a beating from Junior dos Santos in his debut.
While that may be the fight that lingers in the memory banks of many fight fans, there are a number of reasons why the kid with the bright future should get passed his more well-known challenger.
1. Struve Didn't Get Kicked Out of His Gym This Week
American Kickboxing Academy is more than a gym; they are a full-service group that offers management services in addition to a place to train.
The only problem is that you're not allowed to go outside of the AKA Family without getting the boot, and that is exactly what happened to Buentello .
When you suddenly are unable to train in the environment you've called home for the past nine years, that is sure to screw up your routine.
While fighters often switch camps and spend time training with other gyms, they do so on a schedule, not because they were suddenly turfed.
2. "My Arms Don't Reach His Head"
There is a good chance that if we get an audio moment in Buentello's corner this weekend, we might hear that exact quote.
It's awful hard to follow through on your nickname as "The Headhunter" when your opponent is nine inches taller than you and can keep you at bay with a ridiculous reach advantage.
Though we've seen Struve fall victim to some serious inside, dirty boxing courtesy of Junior dos Santos, Paul Buentello is no "Cigano" and getting inside might be harder for the Texan now that Struve has found a comfort zone inside the Octagon.
3. That's Some Slick Jiu Jitsu for a Kickboxer
The Dutch youngster is billed as a kickboxer and has an unblemished record in the sport. But when it comes to his MMA career thus far, Struve has shown a fondness for submissions.
Fourteen of his 18 wins have come via tapout, including his two UFC triumphs. Against Chase Gormley last time out, Struve baited the wrestler into a triangle choke, while he secured a rear naked choke on Denis Stojnic at UFC 99 in Germany.
4. Speaking of the Denis Stojnic Fight...
You may not remember it, but I certainly do.
Struve was a bloody mess courtesy of a monster laceration on his melon, one that very well could have stopped the fight. Instead, the bout continued and with a crimson red face, Struve battled on and found the aforementioned choke to earn his first UFC win.
Denis Stojnic isn't a world beater, but pushing through a massive cut and coming away with a nice win shows heart and determination, two qualities I value in a fighter.
5. The Exuberance of Youth
For as relatively well-known as Paul Buentello is, the guy hasn't really ever beaten anybody. Not that Struve has either, but he's only 21...
This return to the UFC looks to me like one last kick at the can for Buentello, and while he's fought for both the UFC and Strikeforce Heavyweight titles during his career, there is a surprising lack of talent on his list of conquests.
Personally, I believe it's harder for a veteran to get revved up for a fight like this than it is his younger challenger; while beating Struve is a solid win, many expect Buentello to do just that, so the gains are not as great.
On the other hand, a win for Struve is his biggest to date and keeps him climbing the ladder.
While I often side with the grizzled veteran based on experience and guile, there are too many reasons to like Stefan Struve and not enough for me to back Paul Buentello in this bout.
The opposite holds true for my colleague Robert Gardner, who makes the case for "The Headhunter" coming out on top in this heavyweight battle Saturday night.