K-1 Kickboxing veteran, Mark Hunt, will slug it out with former Golden Gloves boxer, Stipe Miocic, this Saturday (May 9, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 65 inside Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Australia.
Despite his mediocre professional mixed martial arts (MMA) record, Hunt is one of the finest heavyweights in the sport. After a disastrous six-fight skid that lasted from 2006 to 2010, Hunt turned it all around with four straight wins over increasingly high-level competition.
Since then, Hunt has faced the elite of the heavyweight division. Win or lose, each of his recent fights with the top of the division have been pretty incredible. At 41 years old, Hunt is likely nearing the end of his career, but he could potentially make a final title run with a win here.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set and see how "Super Samoan" stacks up:
Hunt has been competing in combat sports for quite some time. Early on, he was largely an in-your-face brawler, pushing forward with combinations of heavy punches and relying on his sturdy jawline for defense. He's since developed into quite the counter puncher, though he'll still chase his opponents down on occasion.
At this point, Hunt is primarily a counter striker. This strategy works quite well for Hunt for a few reasons. In addition to keeping Hunt balanced and preventing takedowns, this ensures that Hunt doesn't suffer as much from his short reach.
Hunt's counter left hook is his money punch. Whenever his opponent steps to him with a straight punch, Hunt will attempt to come over the top with a hard left hook. Hunt usually turns his hand all the way over on this punch, landing with his bottom knuckles.
Much of the time Hunt is looking to counter, he's stalking his opponent and standing within their boxing range. Once his opponent commits to a strike, Hunt will slip or parry the blow and return his left hand.
Hunt will commonly lead with his left hook as well. If there's a good deal of distance between himself and his opponent or Hunt has walked his foe into the cage, the New Zealand-native will jump into the strike. To avoid getting predictable, Hunt stays active with his feints and mixes in occasional jabs.
It's now taken a back seat to his left hook, but Hunt still attacks with his long right hand pretty commonly. Every once in a while, Hunt will charge his opponent with a big right hand, but he usually mixes it into combinations well or attempts to counter his opponent's jab with the strike.
Most of Hunt's combinations are a mix of left hooks and right hands. Since the left hook goes around his opponent's guard while his right hand -- usually thrown as a straight or overhand -- goes straight through his opponent's defenses, it's difficult to properly defend against both strikes. If his opponent's defense is poorly timed or he adjusts too much to either strike, he'll be left wide open to absorb a powerful shot from "Super Samoan."
While he doesn't rely on them all that often, Hunt has also proven to have some seriously powerful low kicks, which can easily knock his opponent off-balance. Considering just how thick his legs are, that shouldn't really be a surprise.
Thanks to his improved takedown defense, Hunt has been able to punish his opponent's for trying to drag him to the mat. If his opponent takes a shot from far out or repeatedly ducks down, Hunt will shovel an uppercut straight into his jaw.
Hunt's overall defense has improved alongside his countering ability. However, his current game does have some issues. Against longer fighters -- which is basically the entire heavyweight division -- Hunt has a problem with low kicks. They knock him out of his stance pretty easily and can really affect his movement.
Even though Werdum was largely getting out-struck by Hunt in their recent bout, the Brazilian found success with many of his long range kicks, as Hunt was simply too far away to counter. In a more violent example, "Bigfoot" Silva nearly knocked Hunt off his feet with a series of hard low kicks.
It's strange to say, but Hunt has developed a very strong wrestling game. Thanks to his low center of gravity and immense physical strength, Hunt is a very difficult man to move around.
While Hunt usually doesn't look to take his opponent down, he's proven to be opportunistic when his opponent forces the issue. For example, Hunt hit a very slick foot sweep on Stefan Struve when the lanky Dutchman kept trying to force his way into the clinch. Additionally, Hunt used underhooks to gain top position against both Fabricio Werdum and Ben Rothwell when the two repeatedly shoot for long range double legs with little setup.
In his bout with Antonio Silva, Hunt was battered on his feet for much of the first two rounds. Then, Hunt switched it up in the third, relying his agility and wrestling skills to throw Silva off his game. First, he caught one of Silva's low kicks and blasted him off his feet with a tackle. Next, Hunt shot for a double against the fence. When "Bigfoot" stepped out of the double, Hunt reshot from an angle, which knocked Silva onto his back.
Opponents that shoot straight in on Hunt with simple single or double legs are in for a rough night. Again, his low center of gravity and balanced kickboxing make it very difficult to get in on his hips. Plus, Hunt is usually ready to sprawl or jam an uppercut up the middle at any moment, which makes shooting a difficult task.
Hunt is also a difficult man to wrestle with inside the clinch. Now that he really knows how to wrestle, Hunt is able to effectively fight for underhooks and circle off the fence pretty easily. This was first noticeable in his bout with Cheick Kongo. When the Parisian attempted to employ his standard game plan of holding his opponent against the fence and kneeing his opponent's thigh/groin, Hunt easily circled Kongo around and pushed him away.
Hunt may have been submitted a fairly shocking six times, but it's not solely due to poor technique. At this point, Hunt is actually a pretty capable grappler, but he's always been a serious risk taker, which got him caught in some bad situations before his technique developed.
The kickboxer's general fearlessness in the ring nearly carried him to one of the strangest upsets of all time. After miraculously rolling out of Fedor Emelianenko's arm bar, Hunt landed on top and in side control. Almost immediately, Hunt attacked with an americana, deciding to trade submissions with the Combat Sambo master just two years into his professional career.
It didn't work out for him, but Hunt legitimately threatened "Last Emperor" with the shoulder lock.
More recently, Hunt attempted to take Ben Rothwell's arm home with him. After Rothwell gassed terribly, Hunt found himself in the mount. When Rothwell raised his arms up to defend from strikes, Hunt moved into the technical mount. From that position, he laced up his opponent's arm and fell back. Time ran out before Hunt could break his opponent's grip, but he likely would've finished the hold.
Hunt's aggressiveness on the mat has had some successful moments as well. Notably, he threw Struve's legs to the side and slid into side control repeatedly. It was a questionable decision, but it ultimately worked quite well for Hunt, as he tired to Dutchman out while avoiding his dangerous submissions.
More recently, Hunt choose to dive into Werdum's guard after defending a takedown. That's a risky proposition for any heavyweight, but Hunt kept himself safe by keeping good head position and driving his opponent into the fence. Before Werdum could really open up or get anything going, Hunt then returned to his feet.
Still, Hunt's sometimes reckless aggression can leave him vulnerable. In addition to leaving his arms out in exchanges on the mat, simply running at Melvin Manhoef resulted in Hunt's most violent knockout loss.
Best chance for success
To take out Miocic, Hunt needs to keep his opponent on his back foot. Miocic will likely be trying to keep Hunt at a distance, where his straight shots and low kicks will be most effective, and Hunt cannot allow that to happen.
Instead, Hunt needs to pursue his opponent and be ready to jump forward with punches. If Miocic is moving backwards, he'll have a tough time landing low kicks without getting countered. Plus, it will be difficult for Miocic to hit a takedown from an angle if he's busy backing away from Hunt's punches.
If Miocic is forced to back up and his first couple takedowns are unsuccessful, he may start looking to move in with his own combinations. Miocic's boxing defense is pretty porous, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Hunt to counter and potentially find the knockout blow.
But first, intelligent pressure is a must.
Will Mark Hunt land another walk-off knockout or can Stipe Miocic get back into the win column?