Mark Hunt's stretches before a match. - Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting
UFC on Fuel this weekend houses the unlikely story of Mark Hunt maintaining his win streak in the UFC to a potential 4-o against Stefan Struve. The quasi-cinderella story promises a violent ending for at least one combatant.
UFC on Fuel TV 8: Silva vs. Stann will feature an oddball co-main event with two heavyweights squaring off. It's not a bad fight by any stretch, but all of us are still bewildered by Hunt's maintained relevance in the sport.
Mark Hunt showed promise early in his MMA career. Despite a loss in his debut, he was the guy to finally break Wanderlei Silva's four year winning streak. It was a questionable decision granted, and the size difference played a big part, but his atomic butt drop became the stuff of memes among fans.
From 2006 to 2011 Hunt went 0-6. It's the kind of number you'd expect a fighter in the UFC to never replicate. To be fair, most of these losses were against top competition, with the obvious exception of one Sean McCorkle. Since then he's miraculously managed a three fight winning streak against mostly respectable competition.
In the opposite corner is Stefan Struve, currently on a four-fight winning streak. Struve has become the posterboy for prospects with plenty of guts, but a little less between the ears. Despite being clearly talented, he doesn't always fight to his strengths. Although it's worth pointing out that whatever his strengths, I find it hard to envision another gameplan where he beats Junior dos Santos, and Roy Nelson.
It's the overachiever versus the underachiever. And I sort of can't wait.
What both men can do: Struve will want to do what everyone else who beat Hunt did. Struve's biggest advantage not just in this fight, but in general, is that he's incredibly slick on the ground. His ability to throw his legs up and begin threatening armbars and triangles right away makes him an immediate threat. It's the part of his game that will allow him to go far in this division if he can overcome the desire to brawl.
Hunt will attempt to do what he did so well while in K-1, which is to throw punches. However, another advantage he has in this fight is his experience. He's used to fighting taller guys, and knows how to adjust despite the reach disadvantage. He does a good job of timing kicks to counter with lunging strikes, and you can expect to see such attempts for as long as the fight stays on the feet.
What both men can't do: It's odd how for a guy so big and strong, all of Hunt's submissions losses are to techniques that require significant pressure, and core strength. This tells me that not only is Hunt bad on the ground, but that it's very likely he mentally checks out in these situations.
Struve will need very little time dispatching him if he takes him down. It's a question of whether or not the two will exchange long enough to give Hunt the opportunity.
If Hunt wins, much will be made of his "cinderella story". That Mark even made it into the UFC in the first place seemed to happen by chance. I know I picked him, which was an obvious mistake, and I'd like to change my mind, but I feel like I have to make the case for Hunt.
In truth, I don't think there's much analysis to be had. If Struve gets the fight to the ground, Hunt's toast. If Hunt lands punches on Stefan's face, maybe he wins, maybe he doesn't.
If Mark can keep it on the feet, and I think he will for longer than people suspect, he'll do so breaking from from the clinch whenever he suspects Struve is attempting to get inside, keeping the fight in the center of the cage this way he can land counters.
Prediction: Mark Hunt by TKO.