Well it doesn't get much better than how UFC Auckland went, not only thanks to impressive victories for Mark Hunt and Dan Hooker on home soil but also thanks to only one fight on the main card going to a decision. The last five fights, including Hunt's TKO win over Derrick Lewis and Hooker's KO of Ross Pearson were stopped early and Hunt (4th round) and Hooker (2nd round) went beyond the 1st round while the other three fights were finished in the 1st round.
Hunt now appears to be eyeing up a fight against Junior dos Santos after beating Lewis with his standard mix of precision striking, takedown defence and Samoan power. Lewis and Hunt traded shots with Lewis throwing many knees and loading up on his right hook, which Hunt did well to stay clear of for the most part. Lewis may have noted how Hunt lost to Alistair Overeem in his previous fight, attempting to land a knee on Hunt's chin but these knees were often coming from a distance, as opposed to Overeem pinning Hunt against the cage.
As this fight went on, Lewis quickly became visibly fatigued but was still able to unleashed a barrage of strikes before retreating to catch his breath. Watching Lewis battle through that fatigue only reinforces the sort of athlete Hunt is as the kiwi was far more measured in his craft, showing off better technique, speed and cardio. That's pretty crazy for a 43-year-old and it always offers a chuckle when someone who hasn't seen Hunt fight before comments on how his body looks; Hunt moves extremely well and is more than capable of fighting five rounds at a high level.
This enabled Hunt to snuff out any takedown attempt and his nimble feet allowed him to slide back, out of range of Lewis' knee or right hand. If Hunt's speed and stamina doesn't impress you, his precision with his strikes should remind you that Hunt has been doing this for a long time. While Lewis would unleash a flurry of strikes, Hunt picked his moments to deliver pin-point strikes such as his signature left hook or over-hand left, which hit Lewis numerous times on the side of the head, landing above the protection of his gloves.
If you find yourself in close proximity to Hunt as Lewis did a couple of times, you're obviously going to feel the full force of a short right uppercut or an elbow from Hunt. Against a taller opponent though, it was Hunt who stalked Lewis and controlled the octagon and it's that over-hand left that allows him to strike from a reasonably safe distance.
A rematch against dos Santos would be very interesting for Hunt as he lost to dos Santos back in 2013 and the Brazilian needs to get back on the wagon after losing in a title fight against Stipe Miocic. A win would have put Hunt back in the heavyweight mix, although winning as he did here reminds everyone that Hunt still has all the skills required to kick it with the best heavyweights. Hunt definitely isn't slowing down and if we roll out our #KiwiUFC bias, apart from two losses to 'juiceheads' the craft in Hunt's work as he gets older appears to get sharper.
Whether that's the case against fighters who are in the top-three and posses the variety of striking and grappling to trouble Hunt, remains to be seen.
UFC Auckland also gave us an opportunity to see Dan Hooker's skillset and this was the real joy of Hunt and Hooker's wins as they didn't just get lucky with a big strike, they worked their way into that position. Hooker was much longer than Ross Pearson and get Pearson on the outside with his jab and an impressive range of kicks, although in the first round Pearson did a nice job of dodging Hooker's jab and countering with a shot of his own which put Hooker under pressure.
When Pearson did manage to avoid Hooker's jab, he started by move to his right but then kept sliding to his left as the first round ended and into the second round. This all became kinda predictable as Hooker controlled the distance with expert precision and Pearson kept slipping to his left and countering.
To nail Pearson with the knockout knee, Hooker rolled through this pattern once again but waited for Pearson to unleash his counter which Hooker predicting, avoided by moving back and then hit Pearson with the knee before Pearson knew he had missed Hooker with the punch. Hooker had to absorb a few shots from Pearson to get this win and continues to show that he can finish fights in a variety of different ways; his last four wins have come via KO (knee), submission (guillotine), KO (head kick/punches), TKO (elbows).
Now fighting at lightweight, Hooker still has a lot of work to do before he get a look in at the lightweight top-15 rankings. Pearson's a tough bugger who is a veteran of the UFC, but he's now lost four straight fights and this was his eighth loss in his last 12 fights so beating Pearson doesn't exactly mean Hooker is destined to be a ranked UFC fighter, the manner in which he beat Pearson does help though. Hoooker will be hoping to get a fight against a higher ranked fighter to really make some waves, as will Hunt.
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