Two international mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans with kickboxing backgrounds are set to go toe-to-toe at UFC 144 on Feb. 25, 2012, from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Super Samoan Mark Hunt, a Pride FC mainstay from back in the day, will be tasked with trading leather with formidable French force, Cheick Kongo, in a heavyweight scrap set for the promotion's return to the "Land of the Rising Sun" early next year.
After surviving a six-fight losing skid, Hunt has momentarily turned things around and recorded back-to-back wins for the first time since 2004. He laid out Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 and then battered Ben Rothwell at UFC 135 to earn a unanimous decision.
The New Zealander -- who made a name for himself with wins over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Filipovic while they were in the prime of their illustrious careers -- has one loss inside the Octagon since coming aboard in Sept. 2010, tapping to a Sean McCorkle armbar at UFC 119.
Submissions have clearly been Hunt's Achilles heel throughout his MMA career, but the good news is Kongo is no Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
On the contrary, similar to Hunt, Kongo is a striker first. In fact, he, too, cut his teeth in kickboxing prior to making the transition to MMA. And while he is no K-1 World Grand Prix champion like Hunt (2001), he certainly has the skills and power to do some heavy damage.
Paul Buentello and Pat Barry know all about that, getting finished by Kongo in recent bouts because of strikes. So much so that Kongo's most recent opponent, Matt Mitrione, appeared to want no part of the Parisian's power, implementing a rather "safe" gameplan at UFC 137 that ultimately played right into the hands of Kongo in the form of a unanimous decision.
There should be no real secrets or surprise strategies heading into this heavyweight duel. Sure, Kongo might shoot for a takedown or two, but both these men prefer to stand and bang. And that's what they'll likely do for 15 minutes or until someone falls over first.
UFC 144 will be headlined by a 155-pound title fight featuring Ben Henderson, fresh off his unanimous decision win over Clay Guida, taking on reigning lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. In addition, Jake Shields returns to action against Yoshihiro Akiyama, while Anthony Pettis and Joe Lauzon collide in what promises to be an exciting lightweight attraction.
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