Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson: Keys to Victory for Both Fighters

Sean SmithAnalyst ISeptember 18, 2014

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image has been desaturated.) Mark Hunt poses during the UFC Fight Night media session at SKY TV Gym on September 3, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand.  (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Veteran heavyweights Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson are set to headline UFC Fight Night 52, which will be hosted by Saitama, Japan, on Saturday.

At 40 years old, Hunt has failed to pick up a win in his past two appearances. However, with a draw against Antonio Silva in his most recent outing, Super Samoan remains a contender in the heavyweight division.

Following back-to-back losses against Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic, Nelson bounced back in a big way when he met Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in April. Big Country knocked Nogueira out cold in the first round to remind everybody he's still a threat to elite heavyweight fighters.

With this highly anticipated clash approaching, here is a look at the areas where Hunt and Nelson must succeed in order to win this weekend. 

 

Mark Hunt: Shut Down Takedown Attempts

It's no secret that Hunt is weakest when he's on the ground.

After losing to Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut, Hunt had dropped six in a row, and five of those defeats came via submission in the opening round. Since that rough start to his UFC career, Hunt has given up only four takedowns over his past six bouts.

Hunt's defensive wrestling seems to have taken a step forward. The result has been three knockout wins and an entertaining draw that earned him Fight of the Night honors.

When he meets Nelson, a very solid grappler, Hunt will need to be on point again when it comes to shutting down takedowns. Hunt would probably walk away with a win in a stand-up with Nelson, but he'll be in trouble should this matchup go to the canvas.

Nelson hasn't submitted an opponent since July 2006, but his mounted crucifix could definitely bring an end to this fight on Saturday.

 

Roy Nelson: Don't Get Coaxed into a Stand-Up Brawl

Jun 15, 2013; Winnipeg, MB, Canada; Roy Nelson before fights Stipe Miocic (not pictured) during their Heavyweight bout at UFC 161 at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

With one of the better chins in MMA and the punching power to put any man away, Nelson has neglected his grappling in some matchups to engage in brawls. Against Hunt, that should not be Nelson's approach.

It's possible Nelson could stand with Hunt and land a punch hard enough to daze Hunt, but his chances of winning are so much greater on the ground. Big Country really hasn't utilized his ground game since an October 2011 win over Mirko Filipovic, but he should be looking for takedowns early and often on Saturday.

Although Nelson hasn't submitted an adversary in over eight years, he'll have an excellent opportunity to do so this weekend. Hunt has avoided going to the floor recently, so it hasn't shown, but his submission defense is seriously lacking.

Nelson is more skilled on the ground than McCorkle and some others who have force Hunt to tap out, so he may be able to pick up his first UFC submission win during his first MMA bout in Japan. Even if he isn't able to stop Hunt on the ground, Nelson will certainly be much safer there than he would be when standing and facing the New Zealander's dangerous striking.

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