Two of the deadliest strikers in the UFC heavyweight division collided last night (May 25, 2013) as former champion Junior dos Santos took onMark Hunt in the co-main event of UFC 160 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
There was a unique aura surrounding this fight, perhaps due to the incredible story that has been Hunt's career resurgenceas of late and the fact that he was potentially one big win away from a shot at UFC gold.
While the support was there for Hunt, dos Santos would forcibly make the clock strike midnight for "The Super Samoan."
Early on, Hunt had his left hook going very nicely, catching dos Santos whenever he tried to step inside and land something of his own and he was throwing leg kicks to great effect.
Just when it seemed Hunt could be in a position to do some damage, dos Santos struck, winging a massive overhand right that caught Hunt flush and sent him crashing to the canvas. The New Zealander didn't stay down long, however, immediately rolling and popping back to his feet, winging hooks that forced dos Santos to back off.
Hunt was back in the fight, but the knockdown helped the Brazilian take round one.
In the second frame, Hunt again started getting some things going on the feet, firing off that left hook and following up this time with a step-in right hand. Dos Santos responded by finding his range with his left jab and popping the K-1 standout every time he tried to get anything going.
Hunt actually scored with a nice flurry along the fence, but dos Santos wisely ducked under a hook and took him down, remaining on top for nearly the final two minutes of the round and dropping enough punches to claim the frame.
The third round would be where everything changed, as Hunt began to slow drastically and dos Santos really started to pour it on. "Cigano's" jab really started doing damage here, bloodying up Hunt's nose and a very telling exchange occurred near the end of the round when both men landed left hooks but it was Hunt who was wobbled on the feet.
Thirty seconds later, dos Santos winged a spinning heel kick that caught Hunt square on the top of the head, sending him crashing to the floor as if in slow motion. The former champion followed Hunt to the ground and blasted him with a right hand, putting him out cold and scoring the emphatic finish he needed to earn another title shot.
For Mark Hunt, it was obvious he came to fight. He was landing his lead left hook consistently every time dos Santos tried to initiate everything and his striking was on point early. He just couldn't match dos Santos' speed or endurance. The overhand right he ate in the first round would have finished most heavyweights but he was able to recover and keep firing away. He actually got something going in the second round, pressuring dos Santos with forward movement and really trying to hurt him, but he was dumped on his back. In the fateful third round, Hunt's conditioning completely failed him and he was no longer able to trade with dos Santos effectively, resulting in the highlight reel knockout. Regardless of the outcome, Hunt fought his heart out and more than deserved a "Fight of the Night" bonus.