At UFC on Fox 13, long-absent heavyweight Stefan Struve will make his highly anticipated return to the octagon. And in all honesty, win or lose, more than anything, we as MMA fans just want to see him make it out of there safely.

Struve has had a rough patch of luck since the last time he appeared in a UFC bout back in March 2013 at a UFC on Fuel TV event. In that fight, he lost to Mark Hunt (who has since gone on to lose an interim title fight), and suffered a broken jaw for his troubles. Some time later, he was diagnosed with a leaking aortic valve and an enlarged heart (sometimes referred to as “sport heart,” and common in athletes), and suddenly, his career was on the back burner. Health had to come first.

In the fall, tragedy struck again as Struve lost his father. In the Spring of 2014, however, things begin to look up. After being in treatment for his heart troubles, Struve was cleared to return to action, and had a fight lined up at UFC 175 against Matt Mitrione. Sadly, he’d never make it to the octagon that night. Prior to the fight, an elevated heart rate kept him out of the bout. Mitrione was paid his full purse; Struve’s future was once again up in the air.

If you’ve ever had a heart issue, you know how nerve wracking they can be. Even when everything’s fine, there’s that little seed of doubt in the back of your head: “is that normal? Did I just skip a beat? Is it going too quick?”

So, first and foremost, we just want to see a healthy Stefan Struve come event time. Everything else is secondary.

That said, there’s also a tough fight in the Octagon awaiting the “Skyscraper” – and a behemoth that goes by the name of Alistair Overeem.

What does Struve need to do to win?

Use His Reach

Here is the biggest factor. Overeem on paper is a bad matchup for Struve, a guy who has been knocked out by much shorter men in Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson. Alistair Overeem is an elite kickboxer and multi-promotional champion. He has thunderous kicks, heavy hands, and he’s more than capable of using them – just look at what one of his kicks did to former champ Brock Lesnar.

Struve needs to use his reach effectively to negate Overeem’s striking. That’s going to be tough, however, since Struve has struggled with it in the past.

Focus on the Long Haul

The biggest upside for Struve in this fight is that Alistair Overeem is in possibly the worst stretch of his career. After his drug test failure and suspension, Overeem has never quite looked the same, and while we won’t speculate as to why, the fact is that he’s 1-3 in his last four, and has suffered some rough losses in that span. Ben Rothwell most recently made short work of him, but prior to that, we saw Overeem tire himself out in fights with Antonio Silva and Travis Browne (though he did go the distance in a measured effort against Frank Mir).

In short, Struve needs to be able to go the distance here, and hope that he can effectively attack a tired Overeem – which could happen as early as just a few minutes into the fight. Overeem has a questionable chin at this point (as does Struve himself), and he’s prone to drop his hands making Overeem easier to hit the longer the fight drags on.

Capitalize on Mistakes

Speaking of mistakes – Bigfoot Silva jumped all over Alistair Overeem when the former Strikeforce champ fought sloppy, cocky, and with his hands down. Travis Browne capitalized on Overeem punching himself out, and took out a very winded fighter shortly after that.

Struve needs to fight smart, and look for his openings. Otherwise, it could be a very quick night for the returning fighter.

There is a very real danger that this could be the last fight of Stefan Struve’s career. At just twenty-six years old, he has fought in over thirty fights, a very high number for a heavyweight at his age. With that, and the health troubles he has encountered, simply making it out of the Octagon in one piece may be a small victory, but a loss would definitely put Struve’s entire career into question at this point, especially a bad one.

Let’s hope this won’t be the last time we see Struve in the cage.

About The Author

Senior Staff Writer

Covering the sport of MMA from Ontario, Canada, Jay Anderson has been writing for various publications covering sports, technology, and pop culture since 2001. Jay holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Guelph, and a Certificate in Leadership Skills from Humber College under the Ontario Management Development Program. When not slaving at the keyboard, he can be found in the company of his dog, a good book, or getting lost in the woods.