If you told any MMA fan just a few years ago that Mark Hunt would end up being a major player in the UFC's heavyweight title picture, he or she would scoff and laugh you out of the room.
Fast-forward to 2013, and the once maligned former K-1 champ is now one of the promotion's most popular—and dangerous—heavyweights.
Set to face former heavyweight king Junior "Cigano" dos Santos in Saturday's co-main event, the Kiwi veteran may have the most to gain from his bout at UFC 160.
When Hunt joined the UFC's roster following the dismantling of Pride, the "Super Somoan" was riding a dismal losing streak that was, unfortunately, extended after a submission loss to Sean McCorkle in his Octagon debut. However, over the past three years, Hunt has completely turned his career around and is now riding an impressive four-fight winning streak, highlighted by a series of brutal KO finishes.
A convincing win over Cigano on Saturday would not only cement his status among the division's elite, but it very well could lead to a future showdown for the heavyweight belt.
Sure, you could argue that Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva has the most to gain since he actually is fighting champ Cain Velasquez on Saturday night, but the Brazilian hasn't had to overcome as many obstacles in his career as Hunt has.
Considering how far the New Zealand native has come since his early days in the sport, it's remarkable that Hunt is still fighting at all, let alone jockeying for position atop the UFC's heavyweight rankings. At 39 years of age, Hunt is defying the odds just by setting foot inside the Octagon.
But if the Super Somoan wants to be taken seriously as a top heavyweight, he needs an impressive win.
Surviving a dog fight with dos Santos will certainly earn Hunt some street cred with the fans, but it won't help him get that coveted UFC strap. If the Kiwi wants to sure up his combat sports legacy by, at the very least, fighting for a title, a win over the No. 2-ranked heavyweight is a necessity.