UFC Auckland: A familiar recipe for Mark Hunt back at home

Mark Hunt is back home for UFC New Zealand, but he will have to fend off the terror of “The Black Beast” to halt any talk that he is done competing against the best.

UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt is in familiar territory, and not just because he is fighting back home in New Zealand.

He is in another main event, pitted against another heavy-handed opponent who is ready to throw caution to the wind and collide with him in the center of the Octagon. This time, he faces surging contender Derrick Lewis with a chance to prolong talk of his fall from the elite level of the UFC.

“The Super Samoan” is far from the title picture.  Losses to the elite of the division have made that clear.  At 43 years old, the question is how much longer Hunt’s legendary chin can withstand the blows of the ever evolving heavyweight division?

Hunt is 3-4-1-1 in his last nine fights.  His four losses were by knockout against top talent like Stipe Miocic, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, and Fabricio Werdum. His no-contest came against Brock Lesnar after the decision was overturned from a loss when Lesnar tested positive for illegal substances.

The draw and Hunt’s best performance of his UFC stint was the five round battle with Antônio “Bigfoot” Silva. Both fighters landed huge blows that would have obliterated lesser men that night.  Despite a valiant effort, neither man was awarded a victory in the epic contest.

Hunt would knock Silva out in the rematch, at a time when it was clear the Brazilian could no longer take blows from opponents like he did earlier in his career.

When watching such a performance, it’s easy to say that Hunt remains a tough perennial top ten fighter.  But after so many battles, at what point will his legendary chin fail him?  He carries incredible power in his hands, and he set the standard for the walk-off knockout in MMA.  But, it’s no secret that he is an exceptionally slow and plodding fighter.

He’s an incredibly experienced kickboxer, and his success comes from the fact that his power allows him to capitalize on openings with less volume than others.  He does not land as much as faster heavyweights, but with his style, he does not need to.

In Derrick Lewis, Hunt is facing a similar kindred spirit willing to take the center of the Octagon and exchange looping punches. “The Black Beast” is on a six-fight win streak, with five knockouts in that span.  With his brusque personality and off-hand demeanour on the microphone, the UFC is clearly pushing him up the rankings by pairing him against Hunt.

The key to victory for “The Super Samoan” will be the use of his kicks. Lewis showed a vulnerability in defending them against Travis Browne. Hunt should look to mix up his strikes to keep Lewis from setting up for his own counters during the bout. Both men possess great power, so Hunt should look to vary his strikes and get out of range, forcing Lewis to miss and expend his energy. Secondly, he should avoid getting backed up against the fence.

In the center of the Octagon, Hunt has more space to move and set up punches.  Against the cage, Lewis cuts off avenues to escape and Hunt puts himself at risk to take punches to escape the position.

Hunt’s experience is more than enough to carry him to a victory.  Against the confidence of Lewis, it will be about finding early success to kill his momentum early and find more openings to finish the fight. His home country is behind him, including Justice League superhero himself Jason Momoa. That has always been a recipe for fireworks in Hunt’s career and all the ingredients are present for another classic on Saturday.