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