Marcos Rogerio de Lima scored a decision win over Adam Wieczorek in his return to heavyweight division at UFC 230, and that was enough to earn him a fight with a ranked opponent.
“Pezao” will enter the Octagon Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, for a co-main event clash with No. 15 ranked Stefan Struve, and that’s exactly what he was hoping for.
”We need big fights to enter the top of the division,” de Lima told MMA Fighting. “Struve is a popular fighter, has fought many Brazilians before, like ‘Cigano’ (Junior dos Santos) and ‘Minotauro’ (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira), and has been in the UFC for years. He’s really tough, has a long reach, is very tall. He’s a tough matchup, but thank God we got the job done in the gym and are ready for this.”
The tallest fighter on the UFC’s roster today, the 7-foot-tall Struve will be the biggest test — literally — of de Lima’s career.
But the Brazilian, a 6-foot-2 striker who competed at both light heavyweight and heavyweight under the UFC banner, is used to dealing with height and reach disadvantages.
”I’ve fought a 6-foot-8 Argentine once in kickboxing,” de Lima said, “and the strike that initiated the knockout was a head kick, so ‘Skyscraper’ better be alert because a foot might get to his head at any moment. The tallest opponent I’ve ever faced in MMA was a 6-foot-7 guy in Chile. He was very tall — but that one, I didn’t kick in the head.”
Struve is so tall, de Lima said, that his coaches over at American Top Team had to come up with unusual ideas to get him ready for UFC Prague.
”When I got to ATT, Katel (Kubis) had to stand on top of a box to hold pads for me,” he said with a laugh. “We had to change some details, but his head will come down a little bit when I start hitting his body, so I don’t have to hit that high.”
Despite Struve’s huge height and reach advantage, “Pezao” sees his opponent struggling with smaller fighters on the feet.
”Struve has a problem keeping the distance, but anyone that tall would have that kind of problem,” de Lima said. “It’s hard for such a big and heavy guy to keep up with the speed of someone smaller and lighter. I’ll close the distance and explore that the whole time.
”He has great striking, has knocked out (Stipe) Miocic with an uppercut, has a good knee — I have to be careful with that. I have to use my explosiveness. I’m faster than him. I’m going there to knock him out from start to finish.
”He’s a tough guy, very experienced,” de Lima added. “He has 39 fights, so it will definitely be a war. Brother, you have to run away from me because I’m going after you the whole time. If I connect my strikes with full power — I’m going there to brawl for 15 minutes, let’s see how much he can take.”