UFC 135 at the Pepsi Center on September 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. via UFC.com
More fight news coming in for the UFC's return to Japan at UFC 144 next February, and once again, it involves a name very familiar to Japanese MMA fans. MMAWeekly is reporting that it will be Pride and K-1 veteran Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo in Japan.
A heavyweight bout between Chieck Kongo and Mark Hunt has been verbally agreed to for UFC 144 in Japan, although independent sources told MMAWeekly.com that no contracts have been signed as of yet.
Great fight here that will be a homecoming of sorts for the Samoan. Mark Hunt's greatest career successes have all come in Japan, first as a kickboxer in K-1 where he won the 2001 World Grand Prix, then in Pride where he went 5-3 including wins over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop. He's been very popular with Japanese fans in the past, and will hopefully get a big reception when he returns.
Hunt is on a shocking career renaissance at the moment. After losing 6 straight fights, all in the first round, Hunt scored a big KO win over Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127. He followed that up with a win over Ben Rothwell, and now finds himself in the unlikely position of a two fight UFC win streak and a fight against one of the UFC's longtime veterans.
Really interesting match-up here and I will be intrigued to see how it plays out. Kongo has a tendency to try and outgrapple fellow kickboxers when they square off, and that will probably be his strategy against Hunt. If he presses Hunt against the cage, and can control him on the ground, Hunt's cardio could come into play and allow Kongo to simply outwork him over 15 grueling minutes.
But if Hunt can avoid the ground and the clinch, and if he can force Kongo into a kickboxing fight, then Hunt is the superior striker, with the stronger chin, and the heavier hands. A Mark Hunt KO is absolutely a possibility here. In which case the 37 year old Mark Hunt will suddenly find himself inside the top 10 of the UFC Heavyweight division.
The latest rumored card for UFC 144 is:
Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson (UFC lightweight championship)
Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon
Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo
Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski