When ZUFFA and the Ultimate Fighting Championship purchased PRIDE back in March of 2007, they acquired the contract of PRIDE fighter Mark Hunt. Taking in the fact that the division was a mess and there was really nowhere for him to fit in, they offered the Samoan to essentially take the money and run. Dana White was going to pay him what they owed him from the PRIDE deal.
Instead of walking away with what could have been free money, the always honorable and respectful Mark Hunt decided he wanted to fight for his paycheck. Hunt has been nothing but entertaining during his first UFC run. Despite a loss for his debut, Hunt has won two straight and has even earned himself a Knockout of the Night award in the process.
The Super Samoan is set to face five year UFC veteran Cheick Kongo in Japan this Saturday, and it would be an understatement to call Cheick Kongo a “step-up” from Hunt’s previous adversaries in the octagon.
Hunt’s UFC opponents have less than stellar track records. After defeating Hunt, Sean McCorkle lost to Stefan Struve and Christian Morecraft, leading to his UFC release. Chris Tuchscherer got released right after Hunt handed him his fourth loss in five fights. Hunt’s latest opponent, “Big” Ben Rothwell is currently on thin ice as his current UFC record is 1-2.
Cheick Kongo has fought a who’s who in the UFC heavyweight division. He has defeated promising up-and-comers like Pat Barry and Matt Mitrione, and put up hard fights for current elitists like Cain Velasquez. Kongo’s devastating loss to Frank Mir showed that Kongo still has a lot of room to improve his offense. There seems to be a reoccurring pattern to Kongo’s losses and near defeats, though. When he goes toe-to-toe with fighters that throw caution to the wind, it tends to be a closer fight than everyone else thought it would be.
When Cheick Kongo lost to Heath Herring at UFC 82, Herring was the aggressor and brought the fight to Kongo every single round. The same pattern repeated itself during the Velasquez, Mir and Barry fights. While Hunt may not have the same conditioning as someone like Velasquez, he still moves forward every second of the bout with dynamite packed in every punch.
Smart bet with heavy money, you would have to put it on Cheick Kongo to win. This is mixed martial arts however, and if anyone has a puncher’s chance it’s Mark Hunt. It’s the classic tale of “whoever can execute their game-plan first will win the bout”. If Kongo can control where the fight is going and mix his offense up with a healthy amount of hit-and-run, and grapple against the cage, Kongo can get a decision win. If Hunt can connect with Kongo’s chin early on, it’s lights out. Very few men can stay awake before they hit the canvas after taking a hook from Hunt.
One thing is for sure, and it’s that both men have taken part in some of the most exciting MMA fights. Considering it will be in front of a Japanese crowd, this one will be no different.