Mark Hunt: Erasing One Night in July
As he made that familiar walk at UFC 200, Mark Hunt’s spot in the co-main event symbolised a true achievement. After almost six years of fighting inside the octagon, the right opportunity seemed to have finally came at the right time. It had been a long career of fighting but now Hunt was on the biggest stage against one of the biggest stars in the sport’s history. It was UFC 200 against Brock Lesnar. The story had been an incredible one up to that point as Hunt famously refused to have his UFC contract payed off, instead electing to fight for his money. Six years later and Hunt was still here, he’d sustained some losses sure but there had been more good moments than bad, and some even great ones.
Just a year before that July night, Hunt was riding a two fight losing streak. After a brutal loss to now champion Stipe Miocic in May 2015, many felt that the ‘Super Samoan’s time at the top level was soon coming to an end. That defeat had come straight after a heart-breaking stoppage loss to Fabricio Werdum in an interim title fight, one that he was doing well in up until a single timed knee floored him. At 41 years of age, it seemed that the Cinderella Man story of Mark Hunt was coming to a close. He had fallen bitterly short in his title opportunity and now was coming off of that battering loss to Miocic. However, as Hunt looked to rebound in November, he was matched with his old foe Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva.
The two men had famously fought to an incredible draw two years prior, a bout widely considered one of the greatest in MMA history. Since then though, both men had gone 1-2, with many questioning the war’s long term effects on both men. Nonetheless, on fight night, a seemingly reinvigorated Hunt showed up looking much sharper and healthier as he stalked a visibly hesitant Silva. After less than four minutes of action, Hunt would close the show, dropping Silva with a straight right hand. The blow didn’t look particularly devastating but that is nothing new with Hunt, a man with a proven knack of turning lights out with just a single shot. Hunt’s momentum would continue forward too, as he next knocked out former champion Frank Mir in March, once again with just one single shot.
With two first round knockout wins in a row, Hunt would now get the aforementioned UFC 200 opportunity. Just a month prior to the event, it was announced that the ‘Super Samoan’ would take on a returning Brock Lesnar. Hunt had taken big fights under these circumstances before, replacing Alistair Overeem to take on Junior Dos Santos in the UFC 160 co-main event a couple of years earlier. Though he entered the cage that night on the back of four straight wins, Dos Santos was just too athletic and dynamic for the veteran, eventually finishing Hunt in the third round. Another example was Hunt taking the Werdum title fight on less than a month’s notice, a case in which, just like this time the opportunity outweighed the lack of preparation.
Though Hunt had fallen short on both of those occasions, the opposition had been undeniably elite. Werdum and Dos Santos were two of the sport’s absolute best and a returning Lesnar didn’t seem to pose a threat quite as severe. Hunt had been active and successful as of late whereas Lesnar, for all of his athleticism and power, hadn’t fought in well over four years and had lost his last two bouts anyway. Everyone accepted that Lesnar had a tremendous wrestling advantage but Hunt’s knack of knockouts didn’t seem to couple well with Lesnar’s defensive flaws on the feet. Sometimes sound logic just doesn’t appear inside the octagon though and UFC 200 was a great example of that.
Lesnar’s physicality and wrestling prowess was prominent for the majority of the fight as he controlled much of the action throughout the three rounds. Hunt had some sparing moments as Lesnar’s energy levels fluctuated but mostly seem startled by his opponent’s strength as he shuffled forward cautiously. In the end Lesnar was the clear decision winner and with the world watching, Hunt had fallen short. The loss wasn’t the disappointment but more that after years of thrills, on the biggest nights Hunt had failed to perform to the level he had shown he was capable of. The spotlight would be soon be moved from the fighter’s performances though as news of Lesnar failing two drug tests would break just a week after fight night.
Understandably, Hunt was outraged. Lesnar had been made exempt from the four month drug testing period required when returning from retirement and though he’d passed multiple tests, his failure of two rightly led to great speculation and controversy. Hunt was vocal with his disgust and is even still involved in an ongoing lawsuit with the UFC. The whole fight and its aftermath is one to forget for Hunt, he looked off inside the cage and the post-fight circumstances were just frankly saddening. Fortunately, Hunt has a chance to erase that night and everything that’s come since with just one punch this Saturday night at UFC 209. Fighting Alistair Overeem, a man that submitted Hunt years prior, with one punch the ‘Super Samoan’ looks to make the world forget UFC 200 and remind them of what he does best, knock men unconscious.
For more please go to @joehulbert5 on Twitter.
Images courtesy of sports.yahoo.com and bloodyelbow.com