Opinion: UFC on FUEL TV 8 Was A Big Night For PRIDE
By Jesse Heitz
Saturday’s UFC on FUEL TV 8, gave many fans, both old and new, something to cheer about. However, the brunt of the cheering stemmed from the performances put on by three legends originally hailing from Pride FC. It was an interesting glimpse into a period of MMA lore, long since gone, but now hopefully not forgotten.
Takanori “The Fireball Kid” Gomi put on quite a show against Diego Sanchez in the third to last bout of the main card. The iron-chinned and heavy-handed veteran showed the old skill set that made him the most feared lightweight in MMA during the early-to-mid 2000s. Despite Gomi clearly getting the better of his foe, the judges, which are always an unpredictable variable when the fate of a fight gets placed squarely in their hands, gave Gomi the loss, dropping him to a career record of 34-9-1. Each and every clear-headed fan watching that fight was undoubtedly baffled by the decision. Regardless, Gomi looked game and ready to continue his campaign within the UFC’s Lightweight Division.
The second to last fight, featured a bout between former Pride standout Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt and up-and-comer Stefan Struve. In devastating fashion, Hunt continued his tear through the UFC’s Heavyweight Division, by viciously knocking out the 7-foot Struve with a nasty left hook that in addition to flattening the latter, broke his jaw. At this point, Hunt has comprised an incredible 4-fight win streak in the UFC, toppling: Chris Tuchscherer, Ben Rothwell, Cheick Congo, and now Stefan Struve. Once given up for dead, his career seemingly at its end, and with nobody giving him a chance of ever finding lasting success in MMA, Mark Hunt is back. He has quickly and decisively placed himself among the ranks of the most fearsome heavyweights, and at this point the sky is the limit.
For old Pride fans like myself, the most gratifying fight of the night, hands down, was the main event between Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva vs. Brian Stann. The fight, while it didn’t get out of the second round, provided fireworks that every fan can appreciate. Perhaps more importantly, the fight provided us with a glimpse of the old Wanderlei, the man that was once the face of Pride.
After some near heart-stopping exchanges in the first, which saw Stann get dropped to the canvas, and Wanderlei suffer three knockdowns of his own, the Wanderlei faithful were able to witness a vintage picture perfect finish that we had been craving for so long. Near the center of the cage, a swift right hand then left hook floored Stann, before a few big right hands finished the supine Stann. Many including myself, while holding out hope, were realistically skeptical of Wanderlei’s chances against the surging Brian Stann. Personally, I’m beyond elated that Wanderlei provided me with a much needed wakeup call. What’s next for him is anyone’s guess. I say what’s the rush? Let’s just marvel in his victory for a little longer.
All I can say is what a night for nostalgic fans such as myself. Other than Gomi getting robbed of a clear win, the night went exceptionally well. In addition to the success of these aging fighters, Brian Stann proved more than capable of carrying their “old-school” mantle with his profound class and warrior spirit. Even in defeat, he’s made a fan of me.