Two aging but accomplished heavyweights will carry the Ultimate Fighting Championship flag Down Under, as 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt meets Frank Mir in the UFC Fight Night 85 main event on Saturday at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia. The winner will strengthen his legacy.
In the welterweight co-main event, American Top Team’s Hector Lombard returns from a year-long suspension to face Neil Magny. The rest of the main card features Jake Matthews-Johnny Case, Bec Rawlings-Seo Hee Ham and a pair of middleweight scraps, as four-time Australian Olympian Daniel Kelly confronts Antonio Carlos Jr. and James Te Huna battles Steve Bosse.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Hunt vs. Mir” matchup, with analysis and picks:
HeavyweightsMark Hunt (11-10-1) vs Frank Mir (18-10)
THE MATCHUP: If Mir has had one secret weapon throughout his long and impressive UFC career, it has been his boxing. Every opponent knows to respect the submission grappling with which Mir has toppled such notables as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar and Tim Sylvia. However, some of Mir’s most spectacular wins, including his two most recent victories, have come in no small part due to his hands. Mir is a powerful hitter, a smart combination puncher and has even displayed improved defense in his recent outings.
Look at this matchup, and the pick seems obvious. Hunt has turned into a solid mixed martial artist since revamping his career in 2011. Since entering the UFC, Hunt has earned an impressive 6-4-1 record, almost all of it against champions and contenders. His striking is obviously excellent, but he has also developed superb takedown defense and even some nice scrambling skills on the ground. It takes a truly elite wrestler to take and keep Hunt down, and Mir is not that man. With that said, Mir is nothing if not capable of surprising, and Hunt has been inconsistent even in his impressive UFC career.
As in all heavyweight fights, stamina will be a key factor here. As a young kickboxer, Hunt was a wrecking machine and allowed himself to fight at a breakneck pace. A major part of his improvement in MMA was his recognition that as a middle-aged man he could no longer afford to throw such a taxing combination of power and volume, nor could he rely on scoring a quick knockout against elite heavyweights. Instead, Hunt has settled into the role of a boxer-puncher, picking his shots, working from long range and countering his lumbering opponents with terrific precision. This new approach has allowed him to stay competitive, even as he nears his 42nd birthday.
Mir’s sense of energy conservation is not so keen. Though the win was phenomenal, Mir was sucking wind after just a minute of boxing with Todd Duffee, chiefly because he encouraged an absolutely wild pace. Generalship has also been a problem for Mir throughout his career. He is far too willing to be backed into the fence, and in a game of inches with a puncher like Hunt, that could spell doom. The ace up Mir’s sleeve is his killer instinct and his craft. He does not navigate the cage particularly well and he is not a great wrestler, but he has always had a keen sense of when to jump on an opportunity, even if it means emptying his limited gas tank in the attempt.
THE ODDS: Hunt (-170), Mir (+145)
THE PICK: Just as when he faced Fabricio Werdum, Hunt will have to be cautious even if he has Mir hurt, and he will have to beware of both the striking and submission skills of the longtime UFC vet. Still, and somewhat ironically, Hunt has proven to be a more consistent mixed martial artist of late than Mir. His sense of ringcraft and strategy should allow him to survive and control the fight, until such time as he manages to land the big one. The pick is Hunt by knockout in the second round.
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