UFC 146: Mark Hunt Should Not Fight For The Heavyweight Title

Since Alistair Overeem's positive drug test theories and speculation abound about what would happen if he is removed from his UFC 146 bout against UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos. While he has not officially been removed, many fans are playing matchmaker and trying to pick the ideal man to replace Overeem to contend for the title. One fighter getting very vocal fan support is Mark Hunt. A decorated kick-boxer, Hunt competed in the competitive K-1 kickboxing promotion and won the 2001 K-1 Grand Prix.

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Hunt is currently on a three fight winning streak, most recently his one round KO win over Cheick Kongo. A kickboxing based fighter with an exciting style with three straight wins seems like an ideal fighter to fill in for Overeem, a fellow K-1 Champion. While I am certainly a horrid match maker there seem to be clear problems with Hunt receiving a title shot.

The first issue with Hunt is his record in MMA. While most fans know that records in MMA are very different than in other combat sports, the fact that Hunt's last win put him at a 8-7 record can't be ignored. Can a fighter just one win over .500 really be competing for the biggest Heavyweight title in the sport? While this is mostly a cosmetic issue, it would not look good for the UFC for a fighter to all appearances a journeyman fighting for a title.

SBN coverage of UFC 146

Now I know what your thinking, you want to bring up Brock Lesnar getting a title shot with 2-1 record, but that was a very different situation. First the true Heavyweight title, held by Randy Couture, had been inactive for over a year and the UFC had created an interim title. The UFC decided to host a mini Heavyweight tournament and Lesnar was selected to face Randy in the semi-finals. It was a smart move for the UFC, if Couture had won Lensar would have been an excellent fight to build towards the finals and Lesnar was a huge PPV draw, so his win only made the finals against Frank Mir the biggest event in UFC history. And even then the UFC did face critiques from sporting media who didn't fully understand MMA records for having a champion with so few fights. Hunt does not have that kind of marketing gravity and the heavyweight division is not anything close the same situation today than it was in 2008.

Another problem is that a big part of Hunt's revival is based around this idea of improvements in his grappling. While he does appear to have made strides on the ground, he is still not a well rounded fighter. His only recourse against Junior dos Santos is to attempt to strike with him, because he will not be able to grapple with him. And while many will say that a K-1 Champion would have the edge on the feet, it has been proven time and again that MMA is a different sport. A sport in which accomplished strikers can get beat up on the feet by guys who have never had a professional kick boxing match. In fact, dos Santos has already dispatched one former K-1 stand out in Mirko "Cro Cop" Flilpovic, soundly beating the him on the feet, forcing a stoppage in the third. This would be a showcase fight for the champion, and while not unheard of, the UFC is really trying to build the resume of the Heavyweight division. They have a crop of truly elite fighters at the that weight now, both in the UFC and in Strikeforce, and now is the time make the Heavyweight division into that casual fan division. Throwing in a one dimensional fighter to get pounded by the Champion flies in the face of the UFC's best fighting the best model.

The final problem is that there are far more deserving fighters in the UFC of a heavyweight title shot. While champions have been thrown fighters who may not have been ready for title shots before, like Dan Hardy facing Georges St. Pierre or Thales Leites challenging Anderson Silva, that has been in a situation where challengers have been lacking.

There is no lack of challengers for Junior dos Santos. Frank Mir and Cain Velsaquez came up almost instantly and Dana White seems committed to those two fighting each other. This seems like an ideal #1 contender match if the UFC is willing to wait for another heavyweight championship fight. Mir would be very interesting to see against the Champion as the two have never faced each other, and while Velsaquez lost his belt to dos Santos that rematch is just a matter of time. Also, much improved Fabricio Werdum is sitting idle and his fresh off his three round destruction of Roy Nelson. Both of these matches make much more sense for the UFC than Mark Hunt fighting for the title. And with Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett moving to the UFC, Shane Carwin returning from back surgery, and prospects like Travis Browne and Shane Del Rossario continuing to develop there doesn't appear to be a place in the title picture for Hunt.

While an entertaining notion, Mark Hunt fighting Junior dos Santos for the UFC title would not be a good move for the UFC. This is not to demean Mark Hunt as a fighter or a man, and his fight with Stefan Struve is the perfect contest for him. Hunt has a clear path to victory and Struve could test Hunt's improved grappling if the fight hits the mat. The UFC has worked hard in the past years to bring legitimacy to the much maligned Heavyweight division. And with an infusion of talent coming from Strikeforce it makes no sense to rush into a fight that will make no sense when we look back on it.

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