Werdum vs. Mark Hunt
Nov. 15 | Mexico City
Hunt has eaten some of the most savage strikes imaginable in his long-spanning kickboxing and MMA careers. Considering his longevity and the overall volume and magnitude of the shots he has absorbed as a heavyweight over the years, it is hardly controversial to suggest Hunt has one of the best -- if not the best -- chin in this sport’s history. If you are able to be one of the rare men to make “The Super Samoan” look mortal, you are probably going to be on this list -- and deservedly so.
Historically, it has taken heavy hitters with real technique to hurt Hunt. It took Jerome Le Banner’s punching combinations or a brutal Semmy Schilt spinning back kick. It took Melvin Manhoef’s catastrophic punching or Junior dos Santos’ perfect spinning hook kick. This does not appear to be a list on which Werdum belongs, but the 37-year-old Brazilian seems to thrive on defying expectations time and time again. He had already tapped out the two greatest heavyweights ever: Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Why would he not believe he could knock out Hunt?
The stakes were higher than simply Hunt’s scalp, of course. UFC 180 on Nov. 15 was the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first foray into the Mexican market, but it was hardly the triumphant arrival of which the company had dreamed for years. Werdum was originally set to challenge heavyweight ruler Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title, capping off their season coaching opposite one another on “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America.” Unfortunately, just over three weeks before the bout, Velasquez suffered a knee injury, creating the Werdum-Hunt bout for an interim heavyweight crown. Despite Hunt’s popularity and overall gameness, fans and media expected him to eventually get tapped on the floor by the former Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist.
“Vai Cavalo” was hardly hot out of the gate. Hunt easily controlled the first round, dropping Werdum with his patented left cross-cuffing right hook combo, shrugging off his submission attempts and eating his strikes. He knocked down Werdum again early in the second round, as the Brazilian still awkwardly tried to negotiate the distance on the hard-charging Hunt and figure out how to attack him. For whatever reason, with Hunt in the center of the cage, Werdum shot from the outside for a takedown. This was peculiar, as Werdum’s shot and leg attacks are perhaps the weakest part of his entire offensive arsenal, with the Brazilian typically setting up his takedowns with trips and throws from the clinch. Hunt sprawled easily and was more than ready for Werdum’s next shot moments later. Unfortunately for Hunt, it was not a takedown.
Werdum tricked and beguiled him. Just seconds later, the Brazilian cast his glance from Hunt’s head down to his waist and faked a quick shot. Hunt dropped his hands and Werdum exploded forth with a crushing right knee to the jaw. Werdum was all over the fallen Kiwi with hammerfists, crunching away until referee Herb Dean intervened. Just like that, a man whose early career was marked by him chasing around better fighters from the butt scoot position when he could not take them down had knocked out Hunt, former K-1 World Grand Prix winner and widely mythologized battle tank.
In a division characterized by heavy hitting and horsepower, Werdum has become one of the best heavyweights in MMA history, making small physical and technical improvements each and every time out under trainer Rafael Cordeiro, even as he closes in on age 40. Although his physical size earned him the “Go Horse” nickname, Werdum is clever like a fox. He is more wizard than warrior, smart enough to trick great heavyweights into falling under his spells. For years, fighters have looked at Hunt and imagined the heavy artillery they would need to put him away; Werdum was keen enough to know that all it would take is a fake.
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