Heading into his bout with Junior dos Santos, Mark Hunt, for all the support he and his incredibly entertaining style of fight have received of late, was thought by many to be in over his head.
It wasn’t just a matter of how lacking his ground game has always been. In Dos Santos, Hunt was facing a younger fighter who many still believed was close to unbeatable.
After all, the Brazilian ex-heavyweight champion is the only man to have ever defeated current champ Cain Velasquez, not to mention Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and a score of others—battering them bloody and leaving them looking wholly out of their depth.
If that wasn’t enough, some people simply didn’t know much about Hunt, save for what they had seen in his last few performances and his 9-7 record in MMA.
Hunt has always looked like a tough, heavy hitter, but he also looked similar to Roy Nelson, drawing too many simplistic and unflattering comparisons to a man who is a totally different fighter with a totally different style.
But as so often is the case in the world of MMA fandom, look-alikes are associated, and thus Hunt found himself quickly dismissed as another game victim, but a victim nonetheless.
Dos Santos, for his part, was coming in under a great deal of pressure.
His last effort in the Octagon saw the title ripped from his waist by Velasquez, who battered him consistently for the full five rounds, leaving him looking every inch the broken man when the judges scorecards were announced.
Were his comeback bout scheduled against anyone else in the division, Dos Santos would have such a clear advantage in firepower and offensive striking that it would be a given that he would be making the kind of statement that only a brutal KO can render:
“I’m back and I’m better than ever.”
But against Hunt, it seemed like he was in a no-win situation. If he stood and traded in an attempt to look like the Dos Santos of old, he faced the very real possibility of eating heavy counters, and when they come from a man like Hunt, one is really all it takes.
If he decided to play it safe and go for the easier, more probable victory, via the takedown and submission game, it might look as if he was somewhat lesser than we have always known him to be.
He was proven to be second best to Velasquez. If he didn’t go out there and prove that he was at least still the best striker in the division, then it would look like he was conceding he was second best again, to Hunt, and what would he have left after that?
Now the battle is over, and we have most of our answers and, with them, a clearer picture of how each man stands in the division.
Here are the key takeaways from perhaps the best fight of the night at UFC 160, Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt.