Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Mark Hunt TONIGHT (May 9, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 65 inside Adelaide Entertainment Center in Adelaide, Australia.
After putting together a nice win streak, Miocic earned an opportunity to step into the cage with former champion Junior dos Santos. He ultimately lost to "Cigano," but Miocic impressed in defeat and is not far from title contention.
Hunt recently lost his interim title bout with Fabricio Werdum but is looking to work his way back to a rematch. In order to get back in the title chase, Hunt really needs a victory here. Otherwise, his unlikely time as a contender is likely at an end.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters:
Key Wins: Roy Nelson (UFC 161), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC on FOX 10)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 13), Stefan Struve (UFC on Fuel TV 5)
Keys to Victory: Miocic is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the heavyweight division and proved to have solid conditioning in his last bout as well. Together, those attributes make him one of the very best in the world, and a threat to any heavyweight.
After performing a game plan of heavy pressure against Junior dos Santos in his last fight, Miocic needs keep his opponent at distance in this fight. Trying to force takedowns and exchanges against the fence won't work, as Hunt is a better counter puncher than dos Santos and doesn't just drop place himself against the cage.
Instead, Miocic needs to make good use of his low kicks. Miocic kicks hard, fast, and from a far enough distance that Hunt should have a difficult time countering him. Plus, just a few leg kicks will really affect Hunt's ability to quickly close distance.
That said, Miocic needs to be very wary while working his outside offense. Hunt is very quick with his counter punches, and it doesn't take many to really change the fight. If Miocic senses Hunt is about to burst forward, he should either back far away or momentarily clinch up and snuff his opponent's offense.
Key Wins: Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 52), Stefan Struve (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Cheick Kongo (UFC 144)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 180), Junior dos Santos (UFC 160)
Keys to Victory: Hunt is an experienced knockout artist, capable of charging at his opponents guns blazing or patiently waiting for his counter opportunities. Plus, his takedown defense and overall grappling have improved tenfold in the last couple years, meaning there's no longer an easy path to victory against "The Super Samoan."
In this bout, Hunt will have the play the part of the stalking counter striker expertly. Hunt has proven in past bouts -- such as his shattering of Stefan Struve -- that he's quite skilled at landing counters on longer opponents. Considering Miocic's shaky striking defense, that's definitely Hunt's path to victory.
However, Miocic is a smart fighter and will not give Hunt easy opportunities. To force Miocic into exchanges, Hunt needs to move forward and cuts off the cage. If Hunt is able to pin his opponent to the fence, he can both initiate the exchanges or counter any shots coming his way.
Additionally, it will be much more difficult for Miocic to land effective kicks on his back foot. And if Miocic misjudges the distance and fires off a low kick with no set up -- a bad habit of his -- Hunt will be in an excellent position to make him pay for it.
Bottom Line: Despite their recent losses, neither man is far from a title shot. Outside of Travis Browne and Junior dos Santos, there really aren't any other heavyweights firmly in the title hunt.
This is Miocic's chance for redemption. He put up a hell of a fight opposite dos Santos, but he still came up short by a fair margin. Plus, there's some talk that "JDS" appeared to be on the decline, which doesn't look good for Miocic. Whether that's true or not, Miocic can remove any doubt of whether he's an elite heavyweight with a win here.
On the other hand, a loss would be very disappointing. Miocic is the favorite and should be in his prime right now, so it's all set up for him to capitalize on this match up. The heavyweight division is thin enough that Miocic would undoubtedly get future opportunities, but it would lower the expectations and hype around him quite a bit.
For Hunt, this is likely do-or-die in terms of being a contender. He's got a pair of losses to members of the Top 5 already, but he put on strong performances in both bouts; enough so that rematches wouldn't be out of the question. If he loses to Miocic -- a rising star rather than fellow veteran -- then it's time for Hunt to take a step down in competition.
Should "The Super Samoan" pull off another victory, he's not far from a scrap with the winner of Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez.
At UFC Fight Night 65, Stipe Miocic and Mark Hunt will collide for a position among the heavyweight elite. Which fighter will earn the victory?