Mark Hunt revitalized his career inside the Octagon. | Photo: David Mariuz/Getty Images
The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday returns to Australia with a solid offering on its Fight Pass platform. In the main event, two heavyweight bruisers meet in what should be a good matchup, as former interim title challenger Mark Hunt takes on Stipe Miocic. Considering the thinness of the division, neither fighter is more than two wins away from a potential title shot, especially the youthful, at least by heavyweight standards, Miocic.
Underneath the main event, the card features mostly local talent -- some of it good, some of it underwhelming -- and several solid matchups. Robert Whittaker takes on Brad Tavares in a good middleweight bout, while the scrap between promising lightweights James Vick and Jake Matthews has “Fight of the Night” potential. This is a solid event for Fight Pass, if not an exceptionally compelling offering overall.
Let us take a look at each UFC Fight Night “Hunt vs. Miocic” matchup:
HEAVYWEIGHTSMark Hunt (10-9-1, 5-3-1 UFC) vs. Stipe Miocic (12-2, 6-2 UFC)
THE MATCHUP: This is an excellent fight between two of the UFC’s best heavyweights. Hunt is coming off a loss to Fabricio Werdum in an interim title bout, but prior to that, he viciously knocked out Roy Nelson and went the distance with Antonio Silva in an epic banger. Miocic had strung together three straight victories before dropping a highly competitive five-round contest to former champion Junior dos Santos in December. The winner will be at most a fight or two away from another title shot in an incredibly shallow division.
Hunt is an exceptional striker by any measure and one of the most potent punchers in the history of the sport. A former K-1 World Grand Prix winner, he has the command of intangibles -- rhythm, timing and distance -- that set apart good strikers from great ones. He sets a relaxed pace, feints, constantly measures the distance with his jab and then explodes into his favored leaping left hook-straight right combination. When his opponent comes in, he consistently looks for a beautiful back-stepping left hook, the king of the counterpunches and probably Hunt’s most effective single strike. Low kicks and body shots keep him from veering too far into headhunting territory and allow him to win wars of attrition. While defense is not Hunt’s best facet and he gets hit cleanly too much, he has gotten better, and his head movement in the pocket is excellent. Takedown defense is and always has been a strength, and Hunt’s incredibly strong hips make it difficult to get him to the ground or hold him there. While not much of a takedown artist, he maintains a heavy base from the top and throws vicious ground strikes. He has declined physically from his awesome peak but remains sneaky-fast, brutally strong and exceptionally powerful.
Miocic was a Division I wrestler at Cleveland State University and a Golden Gloves boxer, and his game reflects those twin roots. He is an excellent athlete and, given a choice, usually prefers to work a sprawl-and-brawl type of game. He is essentially an in-and-out boxer with an especially crisp jab and left hook. At his best, Miocic mixes up his punches to the body and head, counters with that left hook moving backward and drops the occasional cracking low kick at range to keep opponents guessing. His quick pace and solid defense complement his basic technical soundness, and while not a bomber, his shots pack solid power. As a wrestler, Miocic boasts excellent takedown defense, is difficult to hold on the mat and shoots nice singles and doubles. His top game is sufficient for control and piling up a bit of damage, but it is not especially dangerous. In sum, Miocic is a well-rounded and skilled fighter with the ability to work in multiple phases with great competence.
BETTING ODDS: Miocic (-205), Hunt (+165)
THE PICK: From a pure skills perspective, this is a closer fight than the betting lines indicate. When you take into account Hunt’s advancing age, demonstrable physical decline and increasingly cracked chin, however, it makes perfect sense. This is still a dangerous matchup for Miocic, especially since his lack of layered defense makes him easier to hit than he needs to be. Hunt can still explode into his trademark left hook, though with less speed and verve than in the past. Still, Miocic is durable, and over five rounds, his work rate and ability to hit the occasional takedown should come into play. While Hunt could knock him out at any time, the pick is Miocic by decision.
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