The revelation that Alistair Overeem possesses the Testosterone levels of fourteen men, although hardly surprising, has sent a shockwave through the UFC 146 card.
Overeem’s heavyweight title fight with champion Junior dos Santos was perfectly positioned to be big draw the UFC needed to kickstart this year’s campaign after disappointing buy rates rates of 235,000 for UFC 142 and only 400,000 for Diaz vs. Condit.
The Dutchman’s clinical destruction of the gigantic Brock Lesnar had signified his devastating arrival perfectly to the casual observer and confirmed exactly what long time fans knew he was capable of. Overeem vs. Dos Santos, to briefly borrow the UFC’s dictionary of cliches, was likely to be a highly entertaining stand up war.
That all changed this week however, as Overeem majestically failed his random drugs test and was consigned to the “we all knew, how did nobody else” pile next to Cristiane Santos. The main event duly fell to pieces and Dana White drowned his sorrows with Olivia Munn.
The real question though, once the hangover cleared, was just who was going to step in to contest for the heavyweight championship and fill the titanic hole in the card left by the Reem?
UFC 146 was, as luck would have it, the first card in the promotion’s history to feature five main card heavyweight bouts so there were no shortage of available fighters training to compete on May 26th. Former champions, BJJ black belts and even a near seven footer made up the card and fans soon began peppering message boards and Twitter accounts with their suggestions.
Former champion Cain Velasquez, solely from a rankings point of view, is perhaps the most obvious suggestion but it’s been less than five months since Junior dos Santos blasted him out of the water in just sixty four seconds. Even in the UFC’s current rematch friendly climate there is simply no way they can justify a Velasquez rematch in these circumstances.
Frank Mir is another fighter who on paper looks like a worthy contender and, unlike Velasquez, he has a healthly stack of wins in his back pocket, culminating with his savage submission over Nogueira back in December. The problem with Mir however, is his lack of ability to take a decent shot and remain mentally strong. There can be little doubt that his submissions are some of the deadliest in the world but he may be the picture perfect example of a fighter who is good as the hammer but bad as the nail.
Shane Carwin, Brock Lesnar, Brandon Vera, Marcio Cruz and Ian Freeman all took the fight straight to Frank Mir and duly watched him fold like a deckchair when the going got tough. It was arguably only Nogueira’s decision to dive for a submission that prevented lightning striking for the sixth time when they met at UFC 140. Frank Mir also presents the very real danger of taking a fight with a proven exciting fighter and somehow turning it into a dreary affair as he did against Cro Cop and against Roy Nelson.
Some hinted at Fabrio Werdum but this seems an unlikely resolution and many, with incredible optimism, called out for Fedor Emelianenko to conquer the insurmountable odds and volunteer his services but alas this was not to be either.
One man already on that card however, possesses some of the best stand up pedigree in the division and is currently riding his own three fight winning streak featuring two brutal knockouts.
Without a drawing main event in sight, the UFC needs a story to sell this card and what better way than to give the fight to an underdog with the tools to shock the world. If the UFC is looking for a fairy tale ending to save this sinking ship there’s surely only one man for the job; the Samoan Cinderella Man, Mark Hunt.
Hunt for the gold
Victories over Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva in the Pride era were testament to the hands and heart of the Samoan who willingly stood and traded with feared strikers in their prime.
Hunt also faced the likes of Josh Barnett, Gegard Mousasi, Melvin Manhoef, Alistair Overeem and even troubled a prime Fedor Emelianko in their bout at Shockwave 2006.
The UFC’s bulldozing business model changed the mixed martial arts landscape to a truly unrecognisable degree and, after the Pride buyout of 2007, there were many fighters faced with uncertainties and contractual wranglings.
Mark Hunt was offered a hefty sum of money to be bought out of his Pride contract as the UFC brass looked at his negative mma record and past performances as legitimate reasons why he should not fight for them.
I knew he wanted to fight. He could have taken the money but he came in and he fought and earned that money and then earned himself another contract, at 37 years old and in the toughest heavyweight division we’ve ever had in the history of this company.
I have nothing but respect for him, I apologise for doubting him and now he’s in the mix. – Dana White
His debut UFC performance against Sean McCorkle was a nightmare as he was quickly submitted by his foe but fighting in Sydney, Australia clearly lit a fire under the battling Samoan. Chris Tuchscherer was savagely knocked out as Hunt walked away seemingly without a care in the world, Ben Rothwell was very nearly submitted before being bludgeoned for three rounds and Cheick Kongo was knocked down and stopped shortly afterwards devastating fashion.
Training at American Top Team has clearly changed the outlook of Mark Hunt but all his media outside of competition still points to the fact that he remains an unassuming regular guy blessed with a granite head and concrete hands. His post fight interview at UFC 144, after arguably the biggest KO win of his mma career, would have presumably been the same joyously casual conversation if it would have happened while queueing up for a sandwich.
The People’s Champion
Hunt would clearly go into this fight as an underdog against a dominant fighter like Junior dos Santos but the realm in which the Brazilian has had the most sucess is one that plays straight into the hands of his would be challenger.
Dos Santos’s explosive hands have troubled all who have stood opposite him in the Octagon but, since Overeem broke the Testosterone meter, is there really anyone better equipped to sling leather with him than Hunt?
In the digital era when Twitter accounts and forum activity are closely monitored by the organization then there’s arguably no better time or place for the rising Mark Hunt support to get noticed. Many may scoff at the fight as mismatch but Matt Serra proved at the expense of George St-Pierre, there’s no such thing as a certainty in a two horse race with four ounce gloves.
It’s likely that an announcement will be made in the days to come and following this the UFC will begin the job of hastily shuffling the deck and firing up the PR machine. Tim Sylvia’s recent pleas to rejoin the UFC were ridiculed by community but by contrast, the beloved Mark Hunt only started his Twitter account yesterday and already has over 3,000 followers all championing his cause to the UFC.
The Super Samoan may not be the most conventional heavyweight in the world but with sixty fights, thirty eight wins and eighteen knockouts he doesn’t have to be. The UFC need a credible heavyweight challenger who’ll put up a fight, not be overawed by the situation and take it straight to the champion and with that in mind, there’s probably not another human being walking the face of the earth that would take it in his stride quite like Mark Hunt.