UFC 144 Fight Card Primer: Mark Hunt Vs. Cheick Kongo

Mark Hunt and Cheick Kongo square off at the UFC 144 weigh-ins on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In a Heavyweight fight at UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, former K-1 champion Mark Hunt (7-7; 2-1 UFC) meets Cheick Kongo (17-6-2; 10-4-1 UFC). This is the fifth of seven fights on the PPV main card. The USA TODAY / MMA Nation Consensus MMA Rankings currently have Kongo ranked at #12 and Hunt at #23. The UFC 144 PPV card begins this Saturday, February 25 at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT, and will run for 4 hours on PPV.

Both Hunt and Kongo came into MMA from a kickboxing background. Hunt made a name for himself in K-1 while Kongo fought primarily in the European scene. Yet despite these striking backgrounds, this fight is likely to be settled on the ground. Kongo has fought a number of former kickboxers before, and his usual strategy is to ground them and use his improved ground control to grind them out. Meanwhile, when Hunt loses it is almost always due to submission - six of his seven MMA loses come from some form of arm-related submission on the mat.

How do these two stack up?

Hunt: 37 years old | 5'10" | 74" reach
Kongo: 36 years old | 6'4" | 82" reach

What have these two done recently?

Hunt: W - Ben Rothwell (UD) | W - Chris Tuchscherer (KO) | L - Sean McCorkle (Sub)
Kongo: W - Matt Mitrione (UD) | W - Pat Barry (KO) | D - Travis Browne (Unanimous Draw)

How did these two get here?

Samoan Mark Hunt is perhaps the most unlikely member of the top 25 rankings today. The former K-1 World Grand Prix champion and Pride veteran was once a formidable force in MMA. But when Pride closed in 2007, his career seemed to end with it. From 2006-2010 his record dropped from 5-1 to 5-7 with 6 straight loses, all but 1 of them coming within the first 2 minutes. He was picked up by the UFC to satisfy an old Pride contract, lost again, and seemed done. Then, miraculously, he won two straight last year. And suddenly, Mark Hunt is in the mix for the UFC Heavyweight title. I don't know how far he can ride this resurgence, but I love finding out.

Cheick Kongo has been the UFC Heavyweight gatekeeper for some time. Fighters like Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez have defeated him and moved on to title shots, while possible contenders like Matt Mitrione and Mirko Cro Cop have found their dreams smashed by Kongo. He's currently on a 4 fight undefeated streak that includes his wild KO win over Pat Barry last year. It seems unlikely that Kongo will move from gatekeeper to contender, but if he keeps winning, he could make it.

Why should you care?

If you don't love Mark Hunt, you are no friend of mine. And I actually think this is a winnable fight for him. Mark Hunt: UFC Heavyweight title contender? Could be...

For a more detailed look at Hunt vs. Kongo, check out the fight Dissection by Dallas Winston.

More UFC 144 preview coverage from Bloody Elbow after the jump.

SBN coverage of UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson

UFC 144 Judo Chop: The Striking Defense of Mark Hunt - Fraser Coffeen

UFC 144: Rampage Jackson Misses Weight By Five Pounds, Loses 20% Of Purse While Fight Goes On - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144 Weigh-In Video And Coverage - Tim Burke

UFC 144: Anthony Pettis Vs. Joe Lauzon Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144: The Bloody Elbow Judo Chops Of Frankie Edgar Vs. Ben Henderson - Fraser Coffeen

UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson Staff Predictions - Tim Burke

UFC 144: Jake Shields Wants UFC To Make Sure Yoshihiro Akiyama Doesn't Cheat - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144: Yushin Okami Vs. Tim Boetsch Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144 Video: Dana White Video Blog Episode 2 - Kid Nate

UFC 144: Rampage Jackson On The Streets Of Tokyo - Kid Nate

UFC 144: Dana White Wants You To Know The UFC Didn't Kill PRIDE - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144: The Epic Drama Of Yoshihiro Akiyama - Fraser Coffeen

UFC 144: Is Frankie Edgar Being Underrated Against Ben Henderson? - Fraser Coffeen

UFC 144: Hatsu Hioki Vs. Bart Palaszewski Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144 Roundtable: Can The UFC Succeed In Japan? - Tim Burke

UFC 144 Predictions: Pros Slightly Favor Frankie Edgar To Beat Ben Henderson - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144: Takanori Gomi Vs. Eiji Mitsuoka Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144 Judo Chop: Benson Henderson And The Miracle of Survival Part 2 of 2 - Ben Thapa

UFC 144 Video: Under PRIDE Rules, Rampage Jackson Dominates Fight Against Ryan Bader - Anton Tabuena

UFC 144 Video: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson Fight Simulation And Prediction - Anton Tabuena

UFC 144 Pre-Fight Press Conference Video - Tim Burke

UFC 144: Yoshihiro Akiyama Leads The UFC Back To Japan - Kid Nate

UFC 144: Should The Winner Of Joe Lauzon Vs. Anthony Pettis Get The Next Title Shot? - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144: Norifumi 'Kid' Yamamoto Vs. Vaughan Lee Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144: Riki Fukuda Vs. Steve Cantwell Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144 Judo Chop: Benson Henderson And The Miracle Of Survival Part 1 of 2 - Ben Thapa

UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson Countdown Show Full Video - Anton Tabuena

UFC 144: Edgar Vs. Henderson Betting Lines - Tim Burke

UFC 144: Rampage Jackson Is A Death Sentence For Ryan Bader According To Michael Bisping - Brent Brookhouse

UFC 144 Manga-Style Promo Video - Kid Nate

UFC 144: Takeya Mizugaki Vs. Chris Cariaso Dissection - Dallas Winston

UFC 144: Tiequan Zhang Vs. Issei Tamura Dissection - Dallas Winston

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