New Blood

Stefan Struve

A towering fighter at 6 feet 11 inches, Stefan Struve has gone from being a hot European prospect one year ago to being one of the better up-andcoming heavyweights in the UFC.

Fighting out of Holland, Struve made a name for himself at the early age of 17 when he began his career in mixed martial arts. Struve found success early as he won nine of his first 10 fights, with none of the fights going the distance. With such long limbs, Struve gained an affinity for submitting his opponents off his back with triangle chokes, effectively using his strength and leverage.

Struve’s first big test came in the summer of 2008 when he took on UFC veteran Colin Robinson. Struve was up to the challenge as he easily got the fight to the ground and locked on a triangle choke that gained him the victory. His next big fight came against another UFC veteran in Mario Neto, who was also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Struve held his own on the ground, even putting Neto in some dangerous spots before finally submitting him with a rear naked choke in the second round. That would be the win that got him noticed, as Struve then signed with the UFC and made his debut against Junior dos Santos at UFC 95. Dos Santos tagged Struve early and finished him off, handing him his first loss in nearly two years.

Struve then fought for his UFC career as he took on fellow European heavyweight Denis Stojnic, who was also coming off a loss in his UFC debut. After taking a serious beating in the opening round, Struve came back and took a tired Stojnic to the mat, where he eventually was able to lock on a rear naked choke for his first Octagon victory.

Struve recently gained his second UFC win, when he submitted previously undefeated heavyweight prospect Chase Gromley with his trusty triangle choke at UFC 104. Struve now looks to the future, as he has become one of the better heavyweight prospects.

Mackens Semerzier

Very much an unknown fighter to the majority of MMA fans, Mackens Semerzier has quickly become a name to remember, since his successful WEC debut.

Semerzier had humble beginnings as he started wrestling as a teenager and continued his pursuit in combat sports with boxing, while enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. After his enlistment ended, Semerzier started training in Muay Thai and made his MMA debut at the age of 26, after helping several teammates train for fights.

Semerizer had a perfect record at 3-0 before making his WEC debut as a late-notice injury replacement against highly ranked featherweight Wagnney Fabiano. Coming into the fight, Semerzier was a huge underdog. Nobody expected him to have a chance against the highly regarded Fabiano. It didn’t take long for the fight to hit the ground with Fabiano working from the top, but in an instant, Semerzier locked on a tight triangle choke that forced the more accomplished grappler to tap. It was a huge upset that put the featherweight rankings on its head as the dark horse Semerzier made himself known to the MMA world. For his efforts, Semerzier was awarded the Submission of the Night, accompanied by a healthy bonus check.

Semerzier never intended to submit Fabiano, but when the opportunity presented itself he took full advantage.

“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about submitting him,” says Semerzier. “When I found out that I was fighting him, my emphasis on the ground was get back to my feet. It was to control him on the ground so I wouldn’t take damage and get back to my feet. It was never to really be offensive from the bottom position.”

Although he pulled off a huge upset, Semerzier stayed humble after the fight.

“I guess that’s how I normally am,” he says. “I almost feel like I’m robbing myself of the enjoyment of winning fights. I think I’ve celebrated once after knocking a guy out, but every other time when I’ve submitted somebody I’ve been real casual about it. Maybe it’s because you can see it coming. You have the submission on, or the triangle locked on, and you know in your head, this guy is going to tap. It’s not like a knockout where you hit him and he falls and it’s a surprise. So I’m usually calm and reserved after a fight.”

The future is bright for Semerzier, who now will take everything in stride and work toward his goal of becoming a champion.

Rolles Gracie

It’s been several years since the legendary Gracie family was a prominent part of MMA, but that will soon change, as one Gracie in particular will soon make his debut on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts. Rolles Gracie will be the first Gracie since Royce to fight in the UFC when he makes his debut for the promotion in early 2010. Unlike most of the Gracie clan, Rolles is one of the only heavyweights in the large family, with his cousin, Roger, as the other.

Gracie began his MMA career in 2007 for his uncle Renzo’s IFL team, where he faced off with the much more experienced Sam Holloway. Gracie wasted no time in getting the fight to the ground. From there, it was only a matter of time before he was able to lock up a rear naked choke that forced Holloway to tap, giving Gracie his first win.

Although potential was beaming from Gracie, it would be almost two years before he would have his next fight, this time in the Chinese promotion Art of War. Gracie took on a much more experienced fighter in Russian heavyweight Baga Agaev. On this occasion, he had a much tougher time as Agaev came to fight. Gracie worked past the Russian’s efforts and eventually got the fight to his comfort zone, submitting Agaev with a rear naked choke.

In his last fight, Gracie faced his toughest challenge to date in accomplished K-1 veteran Peter Graham. Many believed that Gracie would be tested on the feet, but it wasn’t meant to be, as he quickly took the fight to the ground and mounted Graham, locking on an arm-triangle and then moving to the side to finish off the submission. It was that win that got him noticed by the UFC. He was quickly signed to a contract with his first fight coming up against Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 110 in Australia. Gracie isn’t just sticking to his laurels for his UFC debut, as he now trains with Greg Jackson in New Mexico alongside fighters such as Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, and Nate Marquardt, to prepare for the high level of competition in the UFC.

Look for Gracie to continue his family’s legacy as he enters the next step in his fighting career.

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