Everyone loves a warrior. With an iron jaw, dynamite hands and a 265-pound frame, Mark Hunt certainly fits the bill.
I am not against the Samoan in his run for the title. I jumped for joy when Hunt knocked out Chris Tuchscherer, and was equally thrilled by the highlight-reel destruction of Chieck Kongo. Dana White hit the nail on the head today: we MMA fans are suckers for a comeback.
That being said, level-headed commentators should not suggest that Hunt has much to offer the UFC's upper-echelon fighters. Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Fabrico Werdum all have the right tools to give Hunt an exceptionally difficult time in the Octagon. Likewise, adoring fans shouldn't forget that Hunt's submission loss to the relatively unmemorable Sean McCorkle happened only three fights ago.
If we are to argue that Hunt has changed his game drastically since that time, which bout do we point towards? Neither Tuchscherer, Rothwell or Kongo can be described as title contenders, and no one has tested Hunt's questionable ground game as of late— the division's elite will hardly fail to exploit this weakness.
At this stage, Hunt's chances of winning the belt are irrelevant; we shouldn't see him in a title fight. MMA has entered a crucial stage in its development, courting the mainstream and attracting fans from a broad range of backgrounds. As the sport's fanbase shifts, so do expectations.
Mainstream spectators are not likely to understand MMA's lack of linear competitive structure. Few things could make the sport seem less legitimate than watching a freak-show bout between the world's No. 1 heavyweight and a UFC newcomer who, until recently, would have been lucky to enter a heavyweight top-20 list.
If the Samoan wants a title shot, Stephan Struve is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Assuming that Hunt can hang with the Dutchman's ground skills and add another scalp to his belt, then—and only then—will he become an eligible contender.
White made the right decision in slowing Hunt's advance. While we love our favorite fighters and are inclined to lead with our hearts, on this occasion we should keep our heads in the equation, too.