How Mark Hunt Exposed the Entire UFC Heavyweight Division

Article by Dave Walsh

Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning; I am a huge Mark Hunt fan and was really pulling for him to pull off the upset here tonight. Mark Hunt is a former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion (during some of the tougher years of K-1’s competition levels) and was one of the toughest guys in PRIDE FC that got fed to a lot of incredibly tough competition. The first thing that you can say about Mark Hunt’s UFC career is that it was never supposed to happen. Mark Hunt was supposed to wash out of the UFC early on and go back to Australia never to be heard of again.

That didn’t happen, though, partially because the UFC Heavyweight division is just so weak, but also because Mark Hunt has a fighting spirit that most fighters today quite simply do not possess. Mark Hunt is a real fighter, a guy who steps into the ring with bad intentions and who refuses to give up. It isn’t that Mark Hunt’s chin and head are made of granite as much as it is that Mark Hunt’s spirit is made of titanium. When Hunt knocked out Chris Tuchsherer it was all well and good, but many felt like it wouldn’t happen again in his career. Then he held on and did enough to pull off a win in a rather sloppy fight with a Heavyweight known for being a solid hand in Ben Rothwell. Hunt was doing the impossible. Then he absolutely leveled Cheick Kongo before putting on a slugfest with up-and-coming Heavyweight Stefan Struve before leveling him as well.

This brought us to UFC 160 where Hunt was squaring off against Junior Dos Santos, the former UFC Heavyweight Champion and seen as an equal with current Heavyweight Champion Cain Valasquez. Even the most stout-hearted Mark Hunt fans are willing to admit that Hunt and JDS should not be a competitive bout at all, which just made the appeal of seeing Hunt step into the ring with JDS more exciting. Then it happened, Mark Hunt had JDS fearing for his life whenever Hunt threw a strike, JDS was almost afraid to engage. JDS certainly had the advantage on the ground, but the fight wouldn’t stay there.

Junior Dos Santos is a guy whose striking is always fawned over for a UFC Heavyweight, with his boxing being cited as second-to-none, yet against Mark Hunt there was hesitation running through his head and one of the best fighters in the world was afraid of a pudgy fighter that was ten years past his prime. When Dos Santos landed the spinning hook kick that connected with Hunt’s temple and sent him down to the mat it was a look of relief on Dos Santos’s face as opposed to that of a conquering hero who was on his way to becoming the ace of the division again possibly.

If the analysts out there saw this fight as a joke, with Dos Santos as one of the greatest Heavyweights and Mark Hunt as a Cindarella story who didn’t belong in the same ring as JDS, what does it mean when that fighter pushes the top Heavyweight to his limits? I think that the Heavyweight division is wide open for the taking right now and that guys like Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett are going to be the guys to shake things up.