Mark Hunt vs. Alexei Oleinik headlines UFC Moscow this September 15, 2018 at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Russia.
One sentence summary
David: “This is hell.” - Danny Trejo (Predators)
Phil: For its historic first trip to Russia, the UFC has taken out all the stops, with a headlining spot for one of the most legendary Russian MMA fighters around, Fedo... Khabi... oh.
Record: Mark Hunt 13-12-1 Draw 1 NC | Alexei Oleinik 56-11-1 Draw
Odds: Mark Hunt -145 | Alexei Oleinik +135
History / Introduction to both fighters
David: Part of me would prefer if this fight a) wasn’t happening and b) couldn’t happen. Mark Hunt is technically not shopworn. He’s 3-2-1 NC in his last six. With wins over fairly big names no less. But it’s been clear for awhile that he’s fighting on borrowed time that began when he lost six straight fights from 2006 to 2010. I still love you, big guy.
Phil: Man, Mark Hunt has a lot of main and co-main events. In some ways he’s slipped into that Michael Bisping role, of being the ready-made headliner for inexpensive forays into new markets. The difference between the two isn’t just in their size, though: for all his tendency to say ill-advised things, Bisping was the definition of a company man, and Hunt most definitely is not. He’s far more vocal than even Bisping was when it comes to PEDs in the sport, which is sort of unsurprising given his history with Lesnar, Overeem, Silva and now Werdum. He’s definitely coming to the end of his UFC tenure, and some ways he’s a treasure that I’ll be sad to see leave, but in other (and more important ones) he’s a 44 year old man who has soaked up scary amounts of punishment over a 20 year combat sport career. I hope he doesn’t bash himself to pieces.
David: Oliynyk’s last name is harder to spell than Joanna Jedrzejczyk — I especially like how our Chorus overlords seemed to have given up too. For some reason that second ‘y’ always sneaks up on me, and I find myself smashing my keyboard, and ruing the day we contractually agreed to preview main events this bad. Nonetheless, OO is a fighter worth any fight fan’s time because he’s a heavyweight who doesn’t lose often, and he can pull off improbably chokes.
Phil: The young man in the fight, Alexei Oleinik is someone whose last name is spelled in many ways. Alexey Alexeyevich Oleynik is a comparatively sprightly 41 years old. Like many old and experienced fighters, he’s been around the block. He was there for some of the earlier M-1 global events, turned up in KSW at some point, and has been in at least one event which sounds like it’s straight out of Mario Kart (“The Mayor’s Cup”?). Pride of place has to go to his sole appearance in Yamma Pit Fighting, though. Something Oliynyk shares with Hunt is that he only really appeared to hit his stride late in his career, picking up some of his best wins relatively recently (scarf hold over Cro Cop!). He’s the kind of fighter that could only really exist at heavyweight: strong, tough, but achingly slow and with a speciality in one of the weirdest chokes in the game.
Where do they want it?
Phil: As mentioned, we’ve covered Mark Hunt many, many times before. Left hook in the check and leaping varieties, right uppercut and overhand. Ferocious speed and incredible durability which are on the wane. The main question I have is centers around the quality of his takedown defense. It’s definitely not elite, as Blaydes, Lesnar and Miocic have all demonstrated. But is it good? I’m still not entirely sure. Hunt remains tremendously physically strong, with a low center of gravity which is very difficult to disrupt. But fighters like Struve and Bigfoot Silva have been able to tip him to the mat, who are not fantastic offensive wrestlers. This seems the key question of the fight, really. Oleinik has done many surprising things over the last year, but winning a kickboxing match against Mark Hunt would be fairly shocking.
David: I think the issue with Hunt is that his takedown defense is really good against guys with technique, and bad against guys who try to overpower him. Or is it the other way around? Basically, Hunt does a great job of unleashing counterstrikes, and posturing forward to get opponents caught in the dead fall. Scrambling doesn’t always work against him because he’s big, yet short. Unfortunately for Hunt, he’s at that stage of his career where opponents can beat him in multiple ways. Sure, he’s better on the ground. But he’s also worse on the feet. He’s still dangerous, which makes the fight sort of interesting.
Phil: Oleinik’s style is the definition of ugly, deceptive functionality. There are some grapplers who never really learn power when they strike. He is not one of them. Despite being slow and plodding, he has a knack for landing power shots and a nose for counters. Mostly it’s all about the clinch, though, where he’s able to latch up freaky chokes and/or drag his opponents to the ground.
David: Credit to Oleinik. If you stuck Harold Howard in a blender full of jiu jitsu, Sakuraba training videos, vodka, and chest hair — Oleinik would be the violent, chunky brew. OO basically has one strategy: threaten with a punch/kick entry, and cling on for dear life until the opponent’s down, and eventually out with whatever choke voodoo he can snatch you with. Other than that, there’s not much else to his game. It’s not a knock on him, so hopefully me being curt isn’t confused for apathy. It’s just that he’s the best and worst of heavyweight.
Insight from past fights
David: Oleinik is a frontrunner, so Hunt just needs to find Oleinik in the open waters of beyond-round-one.
Phil: Both men lost to Curtis Blaydes, and that doesn’t tell us much. Daniel Omielanczuk, on the other hand, was a notable loss for Oleinik, where he was tired out by the younger fighter. In general, he’s struggled to win fights which go past the second round, with an exception of a submission over journeyman Tony Lopez.
David: Anytime you have an exorbitant amount of sweat and meat clacking together, the laws of physics become an x-factor.
Phil: Both these men are old as hell and I wonder if Hunt really cares much. Also it’s heavyweight.
Phil: Oleinik has pulled wackier wins out of a hat before (notably Cro Cop) but I’m going to trust that Hunt’s takedown defense holds up. If it does, he’s not the man to be scared off by Oleinik’s wild striking. Mark Hunt by TKO, round 2.
David: This is heavyweight. Not just heavyweight. But old-man heavyweight. The fact that a Hunt win makes fight sense means Hunt won’t win. Heavyweight is ironically like the subatomic world, where quantum wheelings don’t care about your facts. Oleksiy Oleinik by reverse banana split, round 1.