On Friday night former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia will look to continue to get his career back on track after suffering defeats to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko and Ray Mercer in three of his last four bouts.
Standing in his way is former five time winner of the ‘World’s Strongest Man’ competition, Mariusz Pudzianowski who is currently in the fledgling stage of his mixed martial arts career with a record of just 2-0.
At yesterday’s press conference for the ‘Moosin MMA’ event Sylvia let it be known that he was not impressed with the Polish fighter’s abilities in the sport so far.
“I’ve been asked if it’s been difficult finding workout partners like my opponent who is 280 pounds with 4-percent body fat and gases-out after 45-seconds. Yeah, my workout partners don’t usually gas-out after 45-seconds,” the 6ft 8″ Sylvia stated.
For his part Pudzianowski let it be known that he’s not underestimating the challenge that lies ahead of him.
“I know I’m just a beginner compared to my opponent, but I’m going to put on a great fight Friday night, and may the best man win.”
Later, speaking to MMAfighting, the 34 year old Sylvia gave more insight into his assessment of his opponent.
“I think he might think he’s better than he is. A lot of people are Monday morning quarterback types. They see the sport and say, ‘I’m a tough guy. I can do that.’ In his case it’s, ‘I’m the strongest man in the world. I can do that.’ They just don’t realize how tough the sport really is until they get hit.”
Remarkably Pudzianowski fought just two weeks ago in Poland, winning a decision against Yusuke Kawaguchi. Sylvia admits he hasn’t seen the fight yet, but that the report he got back from his team-mates has not left him quaking in his boots.
“[They said] that he has no cardio and that it was the most boring thing they’ve seen. I mean, it’s pretty obvious what he is. He’s aggressive, but there are a whole lot of holes in his game.”
Sylvia may not have seen the fight, but I have, along with his only other professional bout to date, and his coaches aren’t far off the mark.
Pudzianowski is certainly an imposing figure, and his strongman background adds an aura of mystique around him, but as a fighter he is extremely limited at this moment in time.
He is reported to have a background in Karate and Kickboxing, but in all honesty there’s been little evidence of it so far. He throws his punches from his hips, launches kicks with some of the worst technique I’ve ever seen in an MMA bout, and shows little composure which means that he goes out like a bull in a china shop and gases within the first couple of minutes.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Prior to his last bout even the Polish fighter’s own boxing coach was surprisingly frank in his assessment of him.
“His boxing technique is bad. There a lot of holes in his game. His defense is weak, he didn’t have much time to learn. There are holes in every aspect of his boxing technique. His jab is bad, his legs are bad, his defense is bad, his offense is bad. I also don’t think Mariusz is ready to take a punch.”
Despite all this he’s still not an opponent that Sylvia can afford to take lightly – particularly after having been knocked out by boxer Ray Mercer in nine seconds last year.
Pudzianowski has showed that he can use his strength to his advantage when it comes to takedowns. If he can take this fight to the ground – and I expect him to attempt to do so rather than purely look to stand and trade with Sylvia, then it could prove to be an awkward fight for “The Maine-iac”.
Having said that, though Sylvia is not known for a devastating ground game, he was recently awarded his blue belt in jiu-jitsu, and says he’s been training with bigger men in preparation for this bout.
Ideally he’ll want to keep it standing though and the gameplan should be to keep it simple – he’ll have a major reach advantage and so keeping his opponent at bay with his jab should be his first concern. With cardio being a major factor for Pudzianowski, particularly in what could be his first full three round fight (his bout two weeks ago was only two rounds), it’s likely that the longer this fight goes, the more it swings in Sylvia’s favor.
Pudzianowski has not been hit with anything substantial so far in his first two fights, but that shouldn’t be the case on Friday night. His poor defense coupled with Sylvia’s decent punching power should quickly let us know whether the Pole has a chin or not.
My major doubt regarding Sylvia is whether he has been taking this as seriously as he should be, both in his mental and physical preparation.
The fight is scheduled as a “superheavyweight” attraction which means he won’t have to cut weight, and judging by recent pictures of the former champion it looks like he’s taken full advantage of that. Whether that will effect his own cardio remains to be seen.
Still, I’m confident that Sylvia will emerge with the victory as I feel Pudzianowski is far to green to be fighting an experienced former champion like Big Tim at this stage in his career. There are just far too many holes in his game, and despite a disappointing last couple of years, Sylvia should have the tools to exploit them.