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Stefan Struve returns to action against Matt Mitrione at UFC 175

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Stefan Struve (25-6) returns to action for the first time since discovering he had a serious heart condition, when he faces Matt Mitrione (7-3) in a heavyweight contest that was announced for UFC 175 on July 5 in Las Vegas.

Struve's career appeared to be in grave jeopardy when it was diagnosed he was suffering from an aortic valve leak and enlarged heart. The condition made it impossible to train at near full efficiency. Even so, Struve was on a four-fight winning streak before being knocked out by Mark Hunt in his last fight in Japan on March 3, 2013.

"I was missing about 30 to 40 percent oxygen rich blood with every heartbeat," said Struve on UFC Tonight. "So my heart had to work a lot harder than it was supposed to. With blood pressure medication, they were able to get the chamber smaller again and the opening got smaller and the leak got smaller. My heart is better and I'm in the best shape ever. I feel amazing. I have energy for days.

Struve, at 7-feet tall, is the tallest fighter in UFC history.  He had just recently gotten clearance to return.

He had noticed he would fatigue quickly in training and in fights, saying he felt stronger at the start of training camp
than at the end.

Mitrione, a former star football player at Purdue who had a brief NFL career is coming off a first round knockout win over Shawn Jordan on the March 1 show in Macau, China. Mitrione is one of the best athletes in UFC's heavyweight division, who didn't even start fighting until the age of 31. He was handicapped by a late start, but has made a name for himself with  good power, scoring six knockouts in his seven wins, and has great agility for a 260-pounder. But he's giving away significant height, reach and fighting experience, as well as being ten years older.

Struve turned 26 earlier this year, while Mitrione will turn 36 ten days after the fight.

The fight strengthens what is already UFC's biggest marquee card of 2014, with Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida for the middleweight title, Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis for the women's bantamweight crown, and Wanderlei Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.

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