UFC 200 is only a matter of days away, allow the hype to swim through your veins like Uncle Kracker's love. As you'd expect with such an event, there are a number of epic fights on this card that will have any mixed martial arts fan excited. That was the case way back in the day for UFC 100 and this weekend we will be gifted with three/four fights that could be deemed headline event quality. I'll take a wee looksie at those big fights in another UFC 200 preview, yeah, the hype is real so I gotta go all-in.
Today, here and now, I focus on Mark Hunt vs Brock Lesnar.
For many of us, this is the main event and that's merely another nod to the epic nature of the UFC 200 card. Casual MMA fans or more notably, casual sports fans in Aotearoa and Australia could be mistaken for thinking that Hunt vs Lesnar is the biggest fight on this card, even though Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier is a bout with more history and more riding on it moving forward. Thinking about Hunt vs Lesnar gives me that tingling feeling that I love about sports, where the anticipation of seeing two skilled but beastly creatures builds with every minute.
There has been a bit said in the media, from Hunt especially, about Lesnar and that's been nice for the local mainstream media to get a hold of, a story for them to run with. In truth, this is a fight that needs absolutely no promotion, there's no need for any shit-talking or any verbal exchanges as the fight simply sells itself.
The match up sells itself; two extremely ruthless guys with a pure fighter's spirit, a wrestler vs a striker and an absolute menace up against the mellow walk-off KO master.
Lesnar hasn't been in the octagon for a while now and he's making his UFC comeback against one of the hardest punchers in the ... well I'm gonna say that Hunt is up there with many boxers for having the hardest hands in the world. That's going to be a key for Lesnar as he's gotta stay well clear of Hunt's punches that can come in the form of a left hook, a right uppercut or an overhand right.
As Lesnar is a bigger dude, a behemoth, he could do this by lurking on the outside and using his jab to keep Hunt at arm's length. This would limit the effectiveness of Hunt's punches as he'd struggle to really get within range and it would also allow Lesnar a bit of room to dip down and go for a takedown. The issue with this is that Lesnar isn't quite a striking mastermind, he's a brute of a human that moves with ruthless speed and aggression but not a pin-point striker who can pick off Hunt from a distance.
Lesnar's best option is to shoot for takedowns and get Hunt on the mat, from which Lesnar can mount Hunt and either submit him or just go to work with some ground-and-pound. If Lesnar has Hunt on the mat, Hunt is in a world of trouble as Lesnar will send a flurry of punches and elbows his way, with relentless ferocity and consistency.
This is the only way that I can see Lesnar getting a win here, besides of course a few good shots that any fighter can get caught with. Working in Lesnar's advantage are his unique athletic gifts that have him taller, more mobile, bigger and stronger than Hunt. These are nicely suited to Lesnar's likely game plan of shooting for takedowns and getting to work on top of Hunt.
As for South Auckland's finest, his strengths are just as easy to spot as Lesnar's. While Lesnar is an athletic specimen with a strong wrestling pedigree (not WWE wrestling and not HHH's pedigree, college wrestling, MMA wrestling lol) which smacks you in the face as being an obvious strength, Hunt earns a living knocking blokes out. Big blokes, small blokes, nice blokes, fast blokes, wrestlings, jiu-jitsu wizards, strikers, it really doesn't matter, Hunt can and will knock you out with a swift punch.
Watching Hunt's KO wins of late has seen me enjoying the work of a master, a striker who combines a craftiness with supreme power. It's not as though Hunt just throws punches recklessly and hopes that one of them lands (any punch he lands is gonna do damage), nah, Hunt will throw a few lazy left jabs for example and then assess where his opponent's head moves, he'll take note. Then Hunt will do it again and land a heavy right, right on the melon.
This happened in Hunt's win over Frank Mir. Hunt slid around and threw punches that didn't appear to do anything but in reality they set Mir up and Hunt sealed the knock-out blow by throwing that left, before coming over the top with a right that hit Mir right behind the ear.
Lesnar is all-action, he's gonna go at Hunt with an intensity that Hunt probably hasn't dealt with before but to expect Lesnar to fully understand what Hunt is doing in those early exchanges is silly. It's not that crazy to imagine Lesnar moving straight into one of Hunt's punches as Lesnar won't be overly cautious with his head movement, he won't stay out of Hunt's reach, he just won't be able to help himself.
Hunt has shown time and time again that he has excellent takedown defence, which comes from his smaller stature and quick feet along with years of experience. With a lower centre of gravity, Hunt can dip his hips easier and snuff out any takedown, especially from Lesnar who will have to load up or set Hunt up to earn that takedown. Expect Hunt to either push Lesnar's takedown attempt down, sliding his legs backwards as Lesnar dives at his feet, or for Hunt to move sideways.
I expect Hunt to execute those moves fairly easily and the funk will come if Lesnar does have Hunt on the ground, should he knock him down with a punch or throw Hunt down as only Lesnar could. Hunt has himself said that he's confident in his jiu-jitsu and how Hunt deals with Lesnar when he's on top of Hunt or has Hunt in half-guard will be interesting. Seeing Hunt escape Lesnar, when Lesnar is in a dominant spot on the mat would be the holy grail for me.
Who knows what will happen if this fight goes past the 2nd round as both fighters have been in wars before, both fighters can absorb heavy shots and keep it moving. Hunt should have the advantage as he's been extremely active, fighting as often as humanly possible while Lesnar will be coming off what should have been an extensive training camp. Hunt's obviously spent far more time in the octagon recently so that's gotta count for something.
I ride or die with Hunt and will do until he retires so don't expect anything different. Hunt will knock Lesnar out and right now I am picturing Hunt standing over Lesnar, blood from either fighters splattered everywhere and Hunt walking away from the crime scene as only he can.
Peel back my bias and there's one heck of a fight to look forward to. Lesnar is certainly no joke, this dude has been there and done that in the octagon before and there's simply no one else like him in the UFC, let alone the MMA world. In his return to the UFC, Lesnar will be looking to make a statement, to show fans and the UFC ... and himself, that he's still got something to offer in this sport.
There aren't too many fighters in the UFC who rely on their punching power as much as Hunt and he does it because his defensive game is top-notch. If you put aside Hunt's immense power, how he deals with Lesnar moving forward like a predator will be worth the watch itself. Then of course you've got Hunt's punching power and...
I've whipped myself into a frenzy.