Wanderlei Silva returns to the site of many of his most famous victories when he headlines at the Saitama Super Arena one more time to face Brian Stann for UFC Japan 2013 on March 3, UFC officials announced Wednesday.
The show, which will be promoted in the U.S. as UFC on Fuel 8, takes place in the morning in Japan, and air in prime time on Fuel in the United States on March 2. It will be the UFC's second event in the arena that housed some of the biggest shows of the Pride Fighting Championships. The UFC, in its first show back in Japan in more than a decade, sold out the arena on Feb. 26 with 21,000 fans.
Silva (34-12-1, 1 no contest) performed in front of numerous sold-out crowds in that arena. As Pride's middleweight (205-pound weight class in Japan at the time) champion from 2001 to 2007, he made himself a star in that building with two of his three wins over Kazushi Sakuraba, then Japan's most popular mixed martial arts fighter. Silva also defeated names like Guy Mezger, Dan Henderson, Kiyoshi Tamura, Rampage Jackson, Kazuyuki Fujita and Ricardo Arona in the arena.
Stann (12-5) was actually born near the arena at the Yokota Air Force base in Tokyo. He had challenged Silva nearly two years ago after beating Chris Leben on Jan. 1, 2011. Silva turned down the fight at the time saying that he didn't want to be booed, but that won't be the case in Japan where Silva is one of the most popular foreign fighters ever.
Silva isn't the only favorite from Japan's MMA boom period returning on the show. Heavyweight knockout artist Mark Hunt, (8-7), who ended Silva's unbeaten streak in an open weight fight in 2004 where he had a 76-pound weight advantage, was previously announced as facing Stefan Struve (25-5).
Hunt vs. Struve presents a unique visual since Hunt, at 5-foot-10 and usually hovering around 260 pounds, is among the most stocky heavyweights in UFC. Struve is 14 inches taller, but is likely to weigh about the same or less. The fight is intriguing because Struve can be knocked out, and Hunt is one of the hardest hitters in the sport. But Hunt has been in the past very susceptible to submissions, and that is Struve's strength.
Another former Pride favorite, Takanori Gomi (34-8, 1 no contest), who was the company's star lightweight in the glory days, will face Diego Sanchez (23-5), who returns after a one-year layoff, moving back down from welterweight.
Other matches announced were former Japanese pro and college wrestler Riki Fukuda (19-6) vs. Brad Tavares (9-1) in a middleweight bout; Takeya Mizugaki (16-7-2) vs. Bryan Caraway (17-5) in a bantamweight fight; Dong Hyun Kim (16-2-1, 1 no contest) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (21-4-1) in a welterweight fight; Kyung Ho Kang of South Korea (11-6) vs. Alex Caceres (8-5) at bantamweight; and Japan's Kazuki Tokudome (11-3) makes his UFC debut against Brazil's Cristiano Marcello (13-4) in a lightweight bout.