Sunday, September 30, 2012
The greatest 'Skyscraper' of them all?
In the nearly 19 year history of Mixed Martial Arts, there have been a few legitimate giants along the way. No, I am not referring to icons of the sport, but rather literal giants who towered above the opposition; heavyweights who were both big and tall. Yet, at only 24 years old, I'd argue that Stefan 'Skyscraper' Struve will soon be the greatest skyscraper of them all.
After Saturday night's second round KO finish of previously undefeated Stipe Miocic (9-1, 7 KO's 1 sub), Struve is now (25-5, 7 KO's 16 subs). On top of that he has received a ringing endorsement from his boss, UFC President Dana White, that he is now considered a top five heavyweight in the world. That's high praise for a young man, who just three and half years ago came into the UFC as a long wiry weak looking kid who got demolished in his debut in less than a minute by current UFC champion Junior Dos Santos.
At the time of that fight at UFC 95, I couldn't help but think, "Who was this sacrificial lamb the UFC dug up for a mercy killing?" However, fast forward three+ years, including 12 UFC fights later with a (9-3) record, and I'm not thinking that anymore; nor is anyone else. That is because Struve is a legitimate contender to be reckoned with who is still growing literally and figuratively.
A native of The Netherlands, this Dutchman is not just some sideshow freak for the UFC to promote as a special attraction every few months the way pro wrestling did with 'Andre the Giant' back in the '70's. On the contrary, Struve is a real fighter who has grown up an athlete his whole life and it is just now that his body is finally developing along with his skills.
Before he ever considered martial arts at the age of 14, this Holland native, as most boys in Europe do, grew up playing football (soccer). Thus, while he was always a tall kid, he was not clumsy by any means as his foot work was always there. However, once he saw a professional MMA fight, he knew where his path and passion lied and he pursued it with fervor. So much so, that he had his first professional fight by the age of 16; a debut submission victory via armbar.
Though he would lose his next fight, he would then reel off 10 wins in a row before tasting defeat again at the hands of current Bellator light-heavyweight champion Christian M'Pumbu. Another five fight winning streak would land him a shot in the UFC and that's where he's been ever since. A slow climb up the ladder, he's worked his way up diligently, while developing himself into a serious contender in the heavyweight division. Miocic was just the latest of the many Struve has knocked off the mantle of the unbeaten.
Some may question me calling Struve the "Greatest skyscraper of them all" considering Tim Sylvia at 6'8" was a three-time UFC champion and fellow Dutchman Semmy 'Hightower' Schilt at 6'11 was a four time (three consecutive) K-1 champion. Those are some serious credentials, for some formidable fighters. Yet, neither Sylvia nor Schilt possessed the size 7'0, athleticism and overall skill set that Struve has; all once again at only 24 years of age.
Being from Holland, where world renowned kickboxers such as Shilt and other striking legends such as Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts learned and now teach their craft, his striking is top notch. His grappling skills are second to none for a heavyweight as noted by his 16 submission victories. His chin for this division is tried and tested with notable wins against heavy handed punchers such as Miocic, Lavar Johnson, Pat Barry and Paul Buentello.
Sure he's suffered a few KO losses to the like of Dos Santos, Roy Nelson and Travis Browne. However, the last of those was a year and a half ago and since then, Struve has grown leaps and bounds with his stand-up, which is now catching up with his body that has now developed into what you see above. This is not Sylvia, Schilt or other awkward giants such as 6'10" Gan McGee or 7'2" Hong Man-Choi. Struve is by far, the best young tall prospect ever in MMA and may very well soon be the greatest skyscraper of them all.
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