Stefan Struve (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)UFC’s Stefan Struve Faces Many Obstacles Upon Return Joe Chacon January 20, 2014 Spotlight Stefan Struve was one of the most exciting UFC heavyweights heading into 2013. He had rattled off four consecutive wins, including victories over Pat Barry and Stipe Miocic. Not only was Struve becoming consistent inside the Octagon, he was also bringing home fight-night bonuses on a regular basis. The “Skyscraper” was climbing the rankings and was perhaps on the verge of landing a title shot until he crossed paths with Mark Hunt in March of last year. Hunt and Struve went at it for the better part of three rounds before Hunt unleashed one of the most devastating punches you’ll ever see in a fight. Hunt’s right hand broke the jaw of the “Skyscraper,” and Struve hasn’t fought since. If only Struve would have been so lucky as to just have to worry about a broken jaw. However, a few months after suffering the broken jaw, Struve received word that he had a rare heart condition which included a leaking aortic valve in conjunction with an enlarged heart. This medical condition created a cloud of uncertainty at the time, and Struve wasn’t sure if he’d ever grace the Octagon again. Thankfully, Struve’s condition has improved to the point where he has been cleared to resume fighting. Although he won’t jump into the cage immediately, if all goes well over the next couple of months with follow-up visits to his doctor and a second opinion, he could very well be fighting again this year. Being able to fight and being considered a serious threat in the UFC’s heavyweight division are, of course, two very different things. Struve is currently ranked 14th in the division, and it certainly looks to be a tough climb up the ladder to title contention. It also remains to be seen if Struve will be hampered by his ailment or if he will be symptom-free, as we all certainly hope. Struve is a rare talent. At 7-feet tall, with an an even longer reach, Struve is as fun to watch fight as anyone. He has knockout power and a phenomenal ground game that has propelled him to a very respectable 25-6 professional record. Struve also has one of the most important aspects of the fight game on his side—father time. It seems as if he has been around forever, but he is still just 25 years old. Assuming he’s healthy, Struve has plenty of time left in his career. Unfortunately, he may always be relegated to gatekeeper status. When you take a look at the fighters ranked ahead of him in the division, you’d be hard pressed to make him a favorite in many of the fights. Brendan Schaub and Gabriel Gonzaga are perhaps the only fighters in the top 15 against whom he stands as the favorite to win. Sure, he’d make the majority of any potential fights competitive, but the knockout loss to Hunt and the subsequent medical issues have really made most second-guess how he’d stack up against elite talent in the division. Struve is one of the good guys in the sport, and the UFC would benefit from having somebody like him as a title contender in the division. He can’t seem to win the big fights, though. In addition to the loss to Hunt, his last three losses have come against Travis Browne, Roy Nelson and Junior dos Santos. Struve has the potential to get better, and his return from such a serious medical diagnosis is nothing short of inspiring. However, just as he has the potential to improve, so does the rest of the heavyweight field. Fans are going to enjoy seeing Struve in the Octagon again, but it’d be surprising to see him make much of an impact once he returns.