Brock Lesnar returns to the cage for a bout that won't exactly prolong his health this July 9, 2016 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One sentence summary:
Phil: A huge boiled ham jumps at a hungry Samoan before quickly realizing this was a very, very bad idea.
Dayne: Once in a lifetime athlete returns to his former playground to see if he still dislikes being hit as much as he used to.
Record: Brock Lesnar 5-3 Mark Hunt 12-10-1 Draw
Odds: Brock Lesnar +150 Mark Hunt -170
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
Phil: The UFC needed something big for UFC 200. But it became increasingly clear that there would be no McGregor, and there would be no Rousey. Zuffa needed a jolt of mainstream attention. Not just because of the pride factor of having a visible landmark show, or even the rating woes of 2014, but because they were (allegedly) selling the UFC. So there was an awful lot of money on the table.
It was time to turn the Penis Sword Signal on, shine it into the clouds, and hope that the UFC's biggest, reddest star would answer the call.
Dayne: Regardless of how you feel about Lesnar, no one can deny that his title reign was unprecedented. Name another person in the modern era of MMA who won a major title in their fourth professional fight. Diverticulitis reared it's ugly head and forced Lesnar onto the sidelines for long periods of time during and after his reign while also affecting his training and in-cage ability. He was always one of those "what-if" athletes in the annals of history. Turns out he thought the same way the rest of us did. He may not be able to change the past, but he will find out if he still has it.
David: Thanks Phil. Now the image of a Kleig light with a penis and two balls warning Gotham City with its phallic fluorescence is permanently embedded in my brain. And thanks Dayne for making our jobs easier by padding the world length with proper analysis so that we don't have to. Lesnar was, and always will be an MMA curiosity but he's a curiosity with talent, skill, and former glory. People who deny him that are restricted to snobby MMA fans making tired jokes about pro wrestling. I should know. I used to be one of those people.
Phil: This is exactly the kind of fight Mark Hunt should be getting. Something silly and relatively meaningless that pays him a ton of money. I certainly hope it pays him a ton of money, anyway. Who knows? Regardless, the man has put a lot of himself into MMA and combat sports in general, and he deserves some solid paydays.
Dayne: After Lesnar called up Dana White and said he was coming back, Uncle Dana sat back in his chair contemplating who he could put in there with Lesnar and not have fanboys berating him over social media that he was giving Lesnar an easy win. Todd Duffee? Nope, not legit enough of an opponent. Junior dos Santos? They did the TUF season together and never had their scheduled fight. Wait, Junior is recovering from surgery. He's out. Mark Hunt? YES!!!
Seeing as how Lesnar's reputation states that he hates being hit, why not give him the former K-1 kickboxer! That should shut those internet trolls up!
David: Hunt shares some philosophical stake in the fight game like Lesnar. He's the kind of fighters that leaves as perplexed as to his success. We all love Mark Hunt. But you're kidding yourself if you think he represents the honorable side of the spectacle coin in contrast to Brock.
What's at stake?
Phil: VENGEANCE. Remember Hunt's UFC comeback run? Maybe you'll remember that it started with him knocking out none other than... Chris Tuchscherer. Yes, that Chris Tuchscherer. The heavyweight with perhaps the biggest differential of scary looks to actual fighting efficacy we've ever seen. He was Brock's friend and training partner at Deathclutch, and he was cut from the UFC and never fought again after the Hunt loss.
To some this bout might seem like cash-grab nonsense, but I posit that it is instead Kickboxer: Minnesota edition. Bloody midwestern revenge has been deferred for five years, and is finally here.
Seriously, there are no stakes.
Dayne: Is it too cliche to say that pride is on the line? Lesnar has nothing to gain or lose here if this truly is the one-off that he claims it is. I can't see the WWE being cool with him coming back at his leisure so I have to believe that we'll see him in a UFC cage again. Hell, I was surprised enough to see him stepping in for this one.
To say that there is nothing on the line for Hunt is a bit foolhardy. Regardless of whether or not Lesnar could still challenge for a title is irrelevant as he is still the biggest name at heavyweight as proven by all the buzz surrounding him this weekend. A win over Lesnar won't push him into title contention, but he will be far more over with casual fans that are sure to tune in to this PPV because of Brock. If Hunt scores the walk-off KO over the monster, the UFC could be looking at their new most popular heavyweight.
Translation: The UFC often awards title shots based on who can sell PPV's. I never dreamed I'd say this after being mauled by Stipe Miocic, but Mark Hunt could contend for the UFC heavyweight title again if the cards line up right. Of course he'll need at least one more win if he defeats Lesnar....
David: Higher than some recent title fights. A Lesnar win is sweet phallic music to Dana's ears. And yea, who would be surprised if the UFC gave him a title shot? A loss doesn't do much except vaunt Hunt higher in the rankings where he already sits comfortably. This is heavyweight though. If the UFC called up Stone Cold Steve Austin and asked him to challenge for the interim belt that Dave Bautista won against Curtis Blaydes after Stipe Miocic got shelved for diverticulitis...I can't say I'd be surprised.
Where do they want it?
Phil: It will be a shocker to everyone if I say that Brock is not the world's greatest striker, or... a good striker. That said, he's not entirely a one-trick pony. While I may bag on this fight a bit, he's a smart guy, and a genuine competitor. He certainly didn't have to fight someone as dangerous as Mark Hunt, so all due respect for him for stepping in there.
Lesnar doesn't generally start the fight with his trademark blast double but plays off on expectations to try and land a big overhand, an uppercut or a jump knee. Then he tries the blast double, which is as fast and dangerous as you might expect. He still has a huge depth of grappling knowledge, and was a genuine innovator from top position.
Dayne: Believe it or not, but the former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion wants the fight on the ground. Weird, right? Lesnar was never the most technical of wrestler even in his NCAA days, but his strength and athleticism was so freakish that he was able to compensate for his lack of technical ability. Simply put, he can do things that nobody else can do. How else do you think he won the UFC title in his fourth fight?
Unfortunately for him, those physical gifts haven't translated as well into the striking realm. Make no mistake that if he hits you cleanly that it will hurt like hell, perhaps even put you out cold. Trying to do so when someone else who is better at it is a different story. Lesnar honed his wrestling for years during his youth and up through his schooling. He is still a newcomer on his feet and it shows with his clunky footwork and shoddy mechanics.
David: You guys are crazy. Analyzing this fight is like dissecting a whoopee cushion. You've got your rubber, your glue...and...your rubber and glue.
Phil: The specific violences of Mark Hunt's game (various left hooks and an uppercut) have been covered by us umpteen times. The soul of his approach is less about the raw newtons behind his fists, but more that Hunt knows exactly where he wants to be. He's simply playing a different game than most of the big men he's fighting, who take exaggerated swings, while he'll take a single shuffling step and arc a meaty fist directly into their jaw. This is likely what makes him such a pain for Lesnar- he's simply unflappable.
Grappling-wise, Hunt is difficult to take down directly with doubles, but has been vulnerable to chain wrestling and specifically getting bowled over by single legs.
Dayne: Remember how I said Lesnar had years to hone his wrestling? Hunt has had years to hone his striking. About 20 years to be a bit more forthcoming. Yes, he's picked up a few tricks of the trade here and there along the way. As he's aged, he's taken a much more economical approach, not wanting to waste energy as he's never had the deepest of tanks. He knows the openings he's looking for and when he sees it, he'll attack. It might incur the uneducated masses to yell at him to throw leather as their patience wanes thin, but who is the champion kickboxer here? That's right, sit down and shut up. The violence will come.
Hunt's takedown defense has been solid at times and downright atrocious at others, typically tied to his conditioning. He can typically stop the initial surge and has shown improved grappling defense, but no one will confuse him for a Gracie.
David: Hunt's a gifted punchsmith of angles, timing, speed, power, and raw surface area with those canned hams of his attached to his wrists. There's no mystery as to what makes Hunt so effective. He's fast, and not just for his size, can take anyone's best Sunday punch, and knows how to overcome whatever reach disadvantage might have been the narrative for his losses in another life. To me the real mystery is his ground game. Against Fedor, he showed some offensive aptitude (though I think it was more to do with Fedor never being that good defensively, as tends to be the story of Sambo practicioners). Against Struve, he showed some defensive aptitude. From 2006 to 2010 he showed mostly neither, however. All I can really glean from that is Hunt's grappling seems to excel in desperate situations, but a model of consistency he is not.
Insight from Past Fights:
Phil: Lesnar's problem in the Carwin, Velasquez and Overeem fights weren't in his chin, and more in the fact that he just didn't like to get hit. This was something which became very pronounced when he fought people that simply weren't scared of him. 280 lbs of fast-twitch spam flying at you is a terrifying thing, but those people who have been unafraid of Lesnar's flailing from the outside have been able to expose how vulnerable he is.
Dayne: Hunt was able to stifle Stefan Struve's submission attempts pretty easily which was a far cry from the days of him being armbarred by Sean McCorkle. Then again, comparing Lesnar's submission capabilities to Struve is apples to oranges. Lesnar himself isn't the most submission savvy of fighters, but he did lock in an arm-triangle choke on an exhausted Carwin.
David: 'Choke' being the operative word there Dayne. Seemed like there was more arm and choke, than triangle and choke to that situation. This, to me, is the catch though. Lesnar lost to fighters who know how to pressure, react, and counter in dynamic situations. Hunt excels in static situations: throwing a punch, combination, burrowing out of a clinch. In a scramble, where techniques morph into fluid sequences rather than moves, Hunt is not the kind of dynamic fighter that historically (a word I use loosely obviously) troubled Lesnar.
Phil: Boy oh boy. Lesnar has been away for a long time. Where's he training, anyway? Has he rebuilt Deathclutch? Konrad and Barry coming back? How much have his sporadic forays into pro wrestling taken out of him? He's unlikely to look much better than he used to, that's for sure.
Dayne: Hunt didn't get a lot of notice for this fight so I can't help but question where his conditioning is. If it is up to par, he should take this pretty easily. Otherwise we could end up seeing the same version who was mauled by Stipe Miocic.
David: These two are the x-factors.
Phil: Lesnar tries something weird. Hunt ignores it and punches him in the face. Lesnar runs away and Hunt knocks him out. Lesnar might conceivably pick up a round or two before this if he can hit takedowns but Mark Hunt by KO, round 1.
Dayne: Lesnar can absolutely win this. Taking Hunt down, mauling him for a while, and forcing the referee to step in after a barrage of strikes isn't a pipe dream. The layoff for Lesnar is too long to ignore though and Hunt is the most savvy striker in the heavyweight division. He'll catch the South Dakota Minnesota Canadian monster before it is all over. Mark Hunt by KO, 1st round
David: I'm not just picking Brock to be "edgy" or different. I'm picking Brock because I think he's always been better than fans gave him credit for, Hunt has declined just as much if not more than Brock (despite the recent wins), and this is 2016. As I said in the past fights section, Brock will stumble in dynamic situations. He will thrive in static situations, which Hunt presents him with. Hunt is probably the only fighter that will just stand there and try to withstand the bullrush with nothing but blunt force trauma. Lesnar may look silly trying to avoid punches, but I have a feeling who wouldn't be taking this fight if he wasn't prepared to keep it as simple, and as stupid as possible. Brock Lesnar by Decision.