This Saturday, July 9th, UFC 200 will take place at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is being billed as the biggest card in UFC history and when looking at the lineup, that is a hard claim to argue against.
With three title fights on the line, it’s incredible that perhaps the most anticipated fight of the evening belongs to two fighters who are not even in talks of title contention, much less actually fighting for a belt.
Returning to the Octagon after 5 long years away from the sport of MMA, former champion Brock Lesnar is set lock horns against perennial Heavyweight fan favorite, Mark Hunt. And while the odds makers have Brock Lesnar as a long shot to win this fight, I thought I’d make a list of reasons as to how Brock Lesnar will make his return to the Octagon a successful one.
- Styles make fights
The fight between former UFC HW Champion Brock Lesnar and former K1 Kickboxing champion, Mark Hunt is the ultimate “Styles make fights” fight. Brock Lesnar brings in some of the best amateur wrestling credentials in the history of the HW division. Using his other-worldly size and strength throughout his collegiate career, Lesnar was able to compile an incredible 106-5 record throughout his tenure at the University of Minnesota, winning two Big Ten championships and eventually securing an NCAA Championship in the year 2000.
From the earliest days of MMA, we were provided many examples of superior grapplers having an advantage over primarily stand up fighters. While the sport has certainly evolved since that time, I would argue that in 2016, Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt is as close as we will get to a pure Striker vs. Grappler match at the highest level of the sport.
We have also seen Mark Hunt repeatedly beaten on the ground throughout his career with 6 of his 10 losses coming by way of submission, and another loss against Stipe Miocic, a talented wrestler in his own right, who was able to utilize takedowns to give, statistically speaking, the worst beating a fighter has ever taken inside the Octagon to Mark Hunt.
Should Brock Lesnar still have something close to the skill set we have seen him utilize in previous fights, I would argue this is Lesnar’s fight to lose.
When talking about pure athleticism in the sport of MMA, there are few people who are as athletically gifted as Brock Lesnar. Standing 6”3 and walking around at a chiseled 285 pounds, Brock Lesnar is simply put, a specimen. His size and strength alone would be enough to marvel at if it were not for his equally incredible speed and agility. This sport has yet to see another man his size that can move with the speed of your average lightweight.
Under the training of Marty Morgan, we have seen Brock Lesnar go through workouts that were designed for the likes of former Lightweight Champion, Sean Sherk, who many remember as being one of the most physically gifted 155-pound men on the planet. It’s still incredible to look back on videos of a man the size of Lesnar going through those same workouts, and it’s something I could never imagine Mark Hunt being able to do.
In a sport like MMA, sometimes the better athlete is just too far ahead physically for a superior skilled opponent to deal with, and I argue that will be the case on Saturday night. To again reference the Stipe Miocic fight, I argue that Mark Hunt is at too much of a physical disadvantage to have any real chance of success in this fight.
- Short Training Camp
Piggy backing off of the point about athleticism, it should be noted that while this fight was announced a little over a month before fight night, it is certainly possible, and given the evidence of Brock Lesnar recently being granted his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and also the shape he has been seen in during Fight Week, probable that Lesnar has been training for this fight for quite some time.
Mark Hunt on the other has only known about this fight as long as the fans have. He has indicated that when the return of Brock Lesnar was announced, he was “told to stay ready” for UFC 200, but did not officially know about the bout until 2 days later when it was announced.
While I believe that Lesnar has been training for his return for much longer than is being discussed about, I would think even if the two men started training at exactly the same time, that heavily favors the superior athlete, Brock Lesnar. Should cardio become a factor in this fight, I believe Mark Hunt is more likely to fade first, as we have seen him do on short notice fights like his bout against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 180.
I know what you’re thinking “BUT MARK HUNT HAS MORE FIGHTS” as you bang your keyboard until your fingers break, but hear me out. I am arguing that at this point in his career, Mark Hunt might have too much experience. Consider the last three years alone. Mark Hunt has suffered two Knockout losses and has been TKO’d in the aforementioned fight against Stipe Miocic where he was on the wrong end of the most significant strikes landed in UFC history. Now add those onto the 3 other times during his professional MMA and Kickboxing career where he has been KO’d or TKO’d. Now adds all of those onto the general brain trauma that one takes over a career that spans almost two decades in combat sports and it adds up to an amount of punishment that takes a toll on even the toughest like Mark Hunt.
Brock Lesnar on the other hand has taken a fraction of that abuse. While he is certainly no stranger to brain trauma(see his losses in MMA or his botched shooting star press against Kurt Angle) he has not suffered the same kind of repeated blows to the head that might slow one down towards the end of their fighting career.
One could argue that Mark Hunt will be more comfortable in the Octagon due to the amount of times he has fought, but Brock has been performing consistently in front of similar sized crowds and has never shown that nerves will be a negative factor against him in the UFC.
All in all I feel like the experience of these two could end up working for Lesnar as much as one could argue it could work against him.
- Hand Picked Opponents Rarely Ever Win
While playing the role of spoiler is common in sports, how often does a hand picked opponent ever come out on top? Mark Hunt was chosen as Brock Lesnar’s opponent for all the reasons I’ve listed above and more. Brock Lesnar winning is better for business for all parties involved. The UFC knows this, The WWE knows this, Brock Lesnar knows this…. The only one who may not be in on the gag is Mark Hunt.
While always a dangerous opponent because of the power he possesses in his hands, the truth is that Mark Hunt was best combination of an available, big name, and ultimately beatable fighter that the UFC could offer.
Mark Hunt is also the perfect fan friendly personality to oppose Brock Lesnar’s more divisive reputation amongst fans of the sport. Die hard MMA purists can all rally behind the “Super Samoan” and root for one of his classic walk off KO’s, while fans of Brock Lesnar can hope that he will take Hunt on a trip to Suplex City en route to a fast TKO or submission victory.
A victory for Lesnar could mean bigger business for the WWE, which would be able to capitalize on the renewed legitimacy of one its bigger stars. Perhaps that is all it would take to convince the WWE to allow Brock Lesnar to further compete in the UFC.
For the UFC, Brock Lesnar has always been big business. With the current state of the Heavyweight division, there are still enticing match ups for Brock Lesnar to pursue. But it all starts this Saturday with Mark Hunt.
Only time will tell if any of these factors prove to be true.
Article written by Michael Gilman