The Fight Horizon – Mark Hunt vs. Junior Dos Santos
The Overeem vs. JDS saga continues, as Alistair Overeem pulled out of yet another fight against Junior Dos Santos, citing a slight quad tear as the reason this time around. Overeem pushed for a later date, but Dos Santos and his camp weren’t willing to wait and adjust their plans for another rescheduled fight against the Dutchman. And accompanying all of this of course were the expected accusations of Dos Santos’ camp accusing Overeem of ducking the fight.
Meanwhile, the dust from the “he said/he said” Mark Hunt and Dana White conversations finally settled, and now Hunt is indeed being given a shot at the former champion.
The Matchup: Mark Hunt vs. Junior Dos Santos
Mark Hunt: Hunt found himself in some bad positions against Struve (a 7 footer in full mount, twice!) yet somehow survived to win the fight standing up. His KO of Struve was brutally impressive, and he demonstrated a lot of heart and an iron chin by taking a beating on the ground and managing to get back up and dominate the stand up. Let’s remember, he did this against a guy who had more than a one foot height advantage. He wanted a top ranked guy next and he got one.
Junior Dos Santos: “Cigano” took the beating of a lifetime from heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and was set to fight another top heavyweight who lost in Alistair Overeem. It’s hard to say whether JDS was that bad or Cain was just that good, but he was absolutely mauled in his last fight. Losing the title on top of that doesn’t help matters, but Dos Santos remains one of the very best heavyweight fighters in the world. He survived five rounds of Velasquez, while current challenger Bigfoot Silva didn’t make it through one.
The Date: May 25, 2013, UFC 160 in Las Vegas, NV
Weight Class: Heavyweight
What led to it: Overeem pulled out of their match-up and JDS didn’t want to reschedule again. Hunt called for a top contender for his next fight and worked it out with Dana White to make it happen.
Why it matters:
Junior Dos Santos was sitting on top of the heavyweight world for a brief time, after brilliantly knocking out Cain Velasquez to win the title and then successfully defending against substitute Frank Mir. He lost badly to Cain as stated, but there aren’t many guys ahead of him in the heavyweight division and we’re more than likely going to see him fight for a title again at some point in the future. But first, he has to get back into the win column. In all likelihood, he’s going to do it in spectacular fashion. Heavyweight fighters can generate a whole lot of power and the top guys tend to end fights rather than go to decisions. But whether he’s going to finish Hunt or not is a very debatable question. Losing here would put him in a two streak slide, and Dos Santos is simply too good to keep falling down the ladder. Dos Santos needs to bounce back in a big way and a decisive victory over Hunt would keep him active and relevant in the heavyweight picture. Look for a hungry JDS to come out on a mission.
For Hunt, who is 9-7 overall but 4-1 in the UFC, this is a chance to step up to that title contender level. The next title challenger could very well be the winner of this fight. Hunt lost his UFC debut but has since gone on to win four consecutive fights against steadily improving competition. Junior Dos Santos is easily his biggest challenge yet and the trouble spots he showed against Struve will be his undoing against a guy as skilled as Dos Santos. If JDS gets anywhere near a full mount on Hunt and rains down shots, you can bet he’ll get a stoppage where Struve could not. Dos Santos is a much harder hitter and if he tags Hunt the way Struve did a few times, Hunt won’t be able to shake it off so easily.
It’s easy to overlook that Hunt is 38 years old considering how he defeated the up-and-coming 25 year old Struve so forcefully. For Hunt, there’s no other option for him but to keep moving up. A loss in this fight, or any fight at this point in his career, and you’d have to wonder where he would go from there. His stock is sky-high right now and he’s been given a golden opportunity at the tail end of his career. If he can capitalize, a shot at championship glory will be within reach.