The Ultimate Fighting Championship will break out the heavy artillery in its return to Middle Earth.
Former Legacy Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Derrick Lewis meets 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt in the UFC Fight Night 110 main event on Saturday at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. Meanwhile, Derek Brunson takes on four-time Olympian Daniel Kelly in a middleweight co-headliner showcasing two unlikely contenders at 185 pounds.
The rest of the six-fight main draw features a lightweight clash pairing Dan Hooker with Ross Pearson, a light heavyweight tilt pitting Ion Cutelaba against Luis Henrique da Silva, a flyweight encounter matching Tim Elliott with Ben Nguyen and a featherweight battle slotting Alexander Volkanovski opposite Mizuto Hirota.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Lewis vs. Hunt” matchup, with analysis and picks:
HeavyweightsDerrick Lewis (18-4) vs. Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
THE MATCHUP: Hunt was once known for his chin. A kickboxer who willingly took power punches from Ray Sefo and stayed standing after a left high kick from Filipovic, his jaw was the stuff of legend. A shocking KO at the hands of Melvin Manhoef stood out as the lone anomaly, and Manhoef is certainly not feather-fisted. In the last four years, however, Hunt has been knocked out four times. This is not particularly surprising when one considers how much mass goes into a heavyweight’s punch. “The Super Samoan” is still capable of absorbing some heavy blows, but there is no denying that the granite chin has started to crumble.
In terms of durability, that probably puts Hunt on even terms with Lewis. Few opponents these days are willing to stand around in front of Lewis Long enough to crack him, but he is far from immune to the knockout. As far as power is concerned, Lewis must have the edge. Some may shake their heads at this assertion, as Hunt is a knockout artist in his own right and his hands are heavy indeed. Lewis, however, is the hardest hitter in the heavyweight division. He has found the knockout 16 times in 18 wins, and sometimes it only takes a grazing blow to get the job done.
Both Lewis and Hunt tend to lumber around the cage, their sluggish feet belying the sudden explosions of speed with which they generate their power. Hunt’s bursts are not quite as impressive as they used to be, whereas Lewis’ right hand moves with frightening speed when he commits to it. However, Hunt has much better footwork. He typically stays balanced over his feet, using angles and managing distance with small steps. Lewis’ footwork, on the other hand, is virtually nonexistent. He hardly bends his knees at all as he plods around and seems to care little about his position in the cage.
Throughout his UFC run, Lewis’ secret weapon has been his ground game. There is hardly any jiu-jitsu to be seen when Lewis is put on his back -- perhaps because he is actually strong enough to simply bench press his way to freedom -- but he has a sturdy top game, which enables him to deliver hellacious punches as his opponent struggles vainly to move his gargantuan frame. It seems unlikely, however, that Lewis will be able to get Hunt to the floor. Hunt is not a perfect wrestler but he has a natural feel for the clinch, and his squat frame makes it difficult for even elite wrestlers to take and hold him down. Lewis will already have his hands full trying to corner Hunt; engaging “The Super Samoan” in wrestling will not be easy.
THE ODDS: Lewis (-145), Hunt (+116)
THE PICK: Lewis looked terrible in his last fight. Travis Browne kicked “The Black Beast” to pieces, hurting him to the body and legs before settling in for punches to the head. Had Browne maintained his long-distance attack, Lewis would probably not have found the opening he needed to put him away. Hunt, however, will not have the same options. He will be giving up five inches of height and reach, and while he has some powerful kicks in his arsenal, one suspects that he will be wary of giving Lewis an opportunity to score an easy takedown. Hunt is still the more technical striker in nearly every respect, but the surprising quickness is leaving bit by bit, along with his chin. Perhaps the best thing to take away from Lewis’ ugly victory over Browne was his composure. Though he was badly hurt on several occasions and totally unaware of how to avoid further punishment, he stayed ready to deliver a finishing blow. When the opening appeared, he was prepared. If this fight plays out as cautiously as I expect it to, Lewis’ explosiveness and size will give him the edge. The pick is Lewis by second-round TKO.
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