UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve has a birthday cake waiting for him at home in his freezer. It's in the shape of an octagon, and he plans on devouring the cake once he's done fighting in the bigger Octagon at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in Japan.
Struve fights Mark Hunt in the co-main event on the card at Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, and finishing Hunt is his one-way ticket to indulging in what a fighter cutting weight would call a glorious pastry.
"My girlfriend got me a really nice cake, a cake with an octagon," Struve said. "It was really cool."
The now-25-year-old is fresh off of earning his jiu-jitsu brown belt two months ago from UFC 2 participant Remco Pardoel. Struve's ground game has vastly improved since he first started grappling nine years ago, he said, and the combination of training in Holland with Pardoel and Los Angeles with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt Henry Akins keeps his skills sharp.
Against Hunt, a known striker in mixed martial arts, the ground game is something Struve looks to take advantage of when the two square off on Japanese soil.
"Every single time he comes close, I'll get the opportunity to take him down and end the fight," he said.
The two heavyweights were first supposed to fight last year at UFC 146, but an injury forced Hunt off the card. Struve instead fought Lavar Johnson, applying an armbar submission for the third win of his current four-fight win streak.
A win over Hunt would do big things in Struve's hunt for a title shot, he said. He believes he'll get an opportunity to take on somebody in the top five if he's able to get by the heavy-handed New Zealander.
"It's going to be another step to the belt, in my opinion," Struve said in explaining the benefits of topping Hunt this weekend. "With five wins in a row, I think I have a good bid for being one of the top contenders in the division. Perhaps I'll earn a title shot at the end of the year.
"I've been watching [Hunt] fight since I was 11 years old, so it's going to be really cool to fight him. And it's going to be even cooler to fight him in Japan where he's huge. He's got a huge name over there and a huge fan base. A win over Mark Hunt in Japan is going to be big for my career."
Fighting Hunt will have to consist of dictating the pace, Struve said. Hunt has never been known as a strong ground fighter, but instead has made himself famous for having a granite chin that has the capability of taking almost any punch. Also, he lands damaging punches that have rattled other fighters' consciousness in the past.
Knowing how hard his 5-foot-10-inch opponent hits, the 7-foot Struve said that keeping a lengthy distance is the best way to keep the fight how he wants it. The footwork he's learned from his stand-up coaches will come in handy once he stands across the Octagon from Hunt on Sunday.
No getting into bad positions, said the Dutchman.
"If I fight my fight, and don't fight in his reach, use my footwork to stay away from putting myself in a bad position, then I should be fine and I'll be winning this fight," Struve said.
"I've made a couple mistakes in the past starting to brawl with big heavyweights when I was in their reach or doing stupid things that caused me a lot of trouble, and I'm not doing that anymore. We worked really hard to get that out of my game and get more patient, use footwork, stay at my own distance and reach. If I fight my fight and do that, I can beat anybody."
Struve said he plans for some big occasions in 2013. They all start with fighting Hunt at UFC on Fuel TV 8. Once he gets done with that, nothing else will be in the way of getting to that UFC birthday cake sitting at home.
Then it'll be time to eat like a heavyweight.
"I had to put it in the freezer," Struve said, adding that he's been on a strict diet and eagerly wants to eat his cake. "And when I'm in Japan, all I'm going to be thinking of is that cake that's in the freezer waiting for me."
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