Mark Hunt shouldn’t even be in the UFC right now, that point should be abundantly clear from the get-go. I don’t say that because of a lack of talent, a lack of will or that Mark Hunt doesn’t deserve his UFC run, because quite honestly, he deserves it and has proven it time and time again. What I mean is that Mark Hunt only made it into the UFC due to a technicality, a holdover from the days of PRIDE FC, a contract that hadn’t expired and that the UFC decided to honor, otherwise it was clear that the UFC wasn’t that interested in having a guy that everyone believed was well-past his prime on the elite UFC roster. Mark Hunt didn’t belong, but was willing to prove that he’s Mark Hunt and that the odds don’t really matter.
Hunt’s UFC run wasn’t his first brush with the improbable, as his run in K-1 was seen in a similar light. Mark Hunt has never been the most technical fighter around and he’s certainly not the “best,” either. In fact, his K-1 run saw a speed bump early one when he took his first step up in competition against the red-hot Jerome Le Banner in 2000. In 2001 he earned his spot into a K-1 World Grand Prix Qualifier by simply being Mark Hunt and being an exciting fighter after a tough loss to one of the most revered technicians in K-1 history, Ernesto Hoost. The year 2001 continued to be cruel to him as he lost a rematch to Peter Graham and then in a final Qualifying tournament he lost to Ray Sefo. But, Sefo was injured, so Hunt was allowed to continue where he won his way into the World Grand Prix. When December came around he did the impossible, sweeping the one night tournament that is the K-1 World Grand Prix by knocking out Jerome Le Banner and then defeating Stefan Leko and Francisco Filho to be crowned champion. Because this is what he does.
When Mark Hunt got his mercy fight in the UFC it was 2010 and Heavyweight MMA in the UFC had found itself in a new era. Brock Lesnar was the champion, names like Shane Carwin, Frank Mir and Big Nog were still on top while guys like Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez were pegged as the future of the division. The Mark Hunt that beat Mirko Cro Cop in 2005 was just a distant memory at this point, as he was walking into the cage coming off of a five-fight losing streak and fighting Sean McCorkle, a name that most likely will not go down in the history books of the UFC. All it took was a minute and the Cindarella story of Mark Hunt’s triumphant comeback was over, he had been submitted via armbar. It looked like it was over before it even started.
The critics felt vindicated while fans felt crestfallen; Mark Hunt didn’t belong in the UFC after all. Hunt was upset but Dana White decided that Hunt deserved one last shot at the UFC, because, well, why not? That “why not?” decision led to an epic, four-fight win streak within the UFC’s Heavyweight division, with knockouts over Chris Tuchscherer, Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve, as well as a decision victory over Ben Rothwell. With that, Mark Hunt had earned himself a spot near the top of the Heavyweight division, something which seemed impossible at the time.
This brought Hunt to a showdown with Junior Dos Santos, the guy who had been at the top of the mountain as the UFC Heavyweight Champion and has been seen as the consensus #2 Heavyweight in the division behind Cain Velasquez for quite a while now. Junior hits so hard that it takes a special kind of fighter to survive even a round against him, yet Mark Hunt did just that. Hunt took a monumental beating, showing a ton of heart, fortitude and even a few great shots against JDS before a kick put Hunt to the mat and due to sheer exhaustion he simply wasn’t able to get back up. You can call it a knockout, most just see it as Hunt’s punches being unable to connect from his back.
That was in May and while it may have been the end to Mark Hunt’s incredible UFC win streak, it didn’t mean that Mark Hunt was done by any means. Mark Hunt trained hard for his fight with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva but many saw it as just another fight for Bigfoot to get back into the win column after his knockout loss to Cain Velasquez in May. Of course, no one told Mark Hunt that he was supposed to just lose in this fight as the 39 year old, almost 15 year veteran stepped into the cage in front of what was billed as a hometown crowd and made a conscious decision to put forth one of the fights of his life.
While the opening rounds saw Bigfoot Silva landing the better strikes, it was a huge right hand up the middle in the third round that put Bigfoot Silva down while Mark Hunt calmly went to the ground and laid a tremendous beating upon Bigfoot Silva’s oversized head for the remainder of the round. Rounds 4 and 5 were almost like some form of the most brutal of poetry, both men getting cut, bruised and knocking each other senseless. This is what Mark Hunt does best; defying the odds and fighting back when his back is against the wall. I mean that in both a figurative manner and a literal manner, as Bigfoot had him up against the cage a few times, landing huge blows only for Hunt to muster up shots that stunned Bigfoot and sent him staggering back. Bigfoot Silva is one of the best Heavyweights in the world, with wins over Andrei Arlovski, Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem, while being able to hang with Cain Velasquez near the top of the division, and he was being given the fight of his life by Mark Hunt.
That is who Mark Hunt is, that is what Mark Hunt does and that is why I refuse to ever count Mark Hunt out. No, Mark Hunt won’t be in technical masterpieces and no, Mark Hunt will probably never get a chance to fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, but the truth is; does that really matter? We all know if he was given the chance he’d give it his all and that there would always be a chance of him walking away with his hand raised and the belt around his waist. Because he’s Mark Hunt.