The UFC returned on Saturday night to the Saitama Super Arena in Japan with a great Fuel TV card that featured several PRIDE legends picking up impressive wins including two-division PRIDE champ Wanderlei Silva and heavyweight Mark Hunt. Silva took part in what was arguably the fight the of the year against Brian Stann before finishing the tough marine late in the second round. In the co-main event, Mark Hunt KOed Stefan Sturve in the second round with a devastating combo that broke the Dutch strikers jaw in the process.
With several underdogs picking up impressive and unexpected victories and a couple of favourites suffering significant setbacks, there are a few performances worth noting in this edition of ‘Playing Matchmaker.’
Here are the fights to make at UFC on Fuel TV 8:
1. Wanderlei Silva vs. Vitor Belfort at 205lb
Wanderlei Silva managed to turn back the hand of time on Saturday night, knocking out Brian Stann in spectacular fashion in the legendary Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. His win brought back memories of the golden days of PRIDE where Wanderlei ruled the middleweight division for close to six years and no matter who you sided with on Saturday night, it was hard not to be happy for one of MMA’s true legends. One may have expected the Brazilian to hang up the gloves after such a spectacular win on Japanese soil but it appears he will be sticking around just a while longer.
If that is the case then Wanderlei has several options. He could return to middleweight where he could accept Tom Watson’s challenge or he could stay at light-heavyweight and face the likes of Vitor Belfort, Shogun Rua or even Chael Sonnen. Only time will tell what Siva choses to do.
2. Mark Hunt vs. Gonzaga/Browne winner
Mark Hunt picked up a devastating knockout on Saturday night, finishing Stefan Struve in violent fashion the third round of their co-main event bout. Not only did Hunt pick up his fourth consecutive win in the UFC, he also managed to break Struve’s jaw in the process. Next for the Australian should be the winner between Gabriel Gonzaga and Travis Browne, who are scheduled to meet at the TUF 17 Finale on April 13th. Hunt has now beat the likes of Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo and no.9 ranked Stefan Struve, earning himself a step up in competition. Both Gonzaga and Browne would make very tough challenges for Hunt and would be an interesting litmus test to establish where he truly belongs in the division.
3. Hector Lombard vs. Brian Stann
Hector Lombard put on yet another disappointing performance on Saturday night, losing a split decision to Yushin Okami in one of the featured bouts of the evening. Now 1-2 in his three UFC fights, Lombard’s stock has clearly dropped and with the price tag attached to him, he may not be far from a potential release. Once thought to be the next contender for Silva’s middleweight championship much has changed for the Cuban in the past 8 months. With Michael Bisping booked to face Alan Belcher, Lombard should face Brian Stann who is also coming off a loss on the same card and will be returning to middleweight. That is a fight with fireworks written all over it, even if both fighters currently coming off losses.
4. Dong-Hyun Kim vs. Rory MacDonald
Dong-Hyun Kim managed to derail Siyar Bahadurzada’s hype train on Saturday night, neutralizing the powerful striker’s attacks en route to a unanimous decision win. Now with back to back wins, Kim is on his way back up the welterweight ladder. Next for him should be a fighter who will be able to neutralize his ground game and force him to stand and Rory MacDonald fits that description. MacDonald was scheduled to rematch Carlos Condit at UFC 158 but was forced out with a training injury. Once the Canadian is healed up, Kim would be an interesting match-up for him.
5. Rani Yahya vs. Nik Lentz
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champ Rani Yahya picked up a decision win over Mizuto Hirota in an entertaining back and forth battle on Saturday night. The win was his second straight victory after a loss to Chad Mendes. Next for Yahya should be a tough featherweight like Nik Lentz, who is coming off a big upset win over Diego Nunes in his second fight at featherweight.