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The Rejection of Mark Hunt’s UFC 160 Bid Gives the “Super Samoan” Time to Upgrade His Game

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COMMENTARY | On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, Alistair Overeem, due to injury, dropped out of his scheduled UFC 160 match-up with former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. Mark Hunt, just coming off his devastating knockout of top 10 heavyweight contender Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 8: Silva vs. Stann, immediately attempted to take advantage of the opportunity and replace the injured Overeem. He stated:

"If I get the call for the fight, I'm there, of course. And the fans are crazy for it, so it's good. Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I'm not injured. I'm always down for a battle. I was born down. You know this."

However, without delay, UFC president Dana White rejected Hunt's plea, exclaiming, "It's not gonna happen. JDS vs. Overeem will."

It is estimated that Overeem will only require four to five weeks of recovery. Therefore, it appears that the UFC will remain patient and reschedule the match-up between Overeem and dos Santos.

As for Hunt, his swift bid for an opportunity to face dos Santos is understandable, given the title shot implications surrounding a bout with the former heavyweight champion. At the same time, despite his highlight reel knockout of Struve on March 2, 2013, it would significantly benefit Hunt to improve certain aspects of his game and acquire another win or two before challenging for the heavyweight title.

Hunt's Questionable Cardio: Needless to say, Hunt could bear to lose some weight. The heavy-handed Samoan stands at 5'10," and drops down to the UFC's heavyweight limit of 265 lbs upon competing. These extra pounds were more than evident in his bout against Struve at UFC on Fuel TV 8. During much of the match, Hunt moved slowly and was obviously fatigued, despite not taking much damage from his opponent. Yet, he relied on his iron chin and knockout power to secure himself the victory.

If Hunt wishes to be considered a serious threat to the championship belt, he will have to contend with the speed of both, dos Santos and current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Regarding a fight with Velasquez, who is a former NCAA Division I All American wrestler, Hunt would have to consider not just the speed of the striking game, but takedowns as well. Velasquez capitalizes on his wrestling base and pushes a tempo in the octagon that is beyond measure. This pace tired out and demolished dos Santos' hopes of retaining his world title at UFC 155. If Hunt is adamant about a championship title run, weight loss, undoubtedly, will have to be considered.

Ground Game: Six of seven of Hunt's mixed martial arts (MMA) losses have come by way of submission. At UFC on Fuel TV 8, Hunt found himself in several dangerous positions on the ground. Struve threatened with a couple of submissions, through which Hunt was able to fight and escape.

In getting to dos Santos and Velasquez, however, submission artists, such as Frank Mir, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum (all top 10 heavyweights) stand in his way. In fact, two top 10 heavyweights, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett, have already fought Hunt; both of whom submitted the New Zealand native in the very first round of their bouts. Hunt would theoretically like to keep his fights standing. Upgrading his takedown and submission defense would grant him some breathing room and allow the former kickboxer to implement a game plan that is geared toward his strengths.

Hunt, like Wanderlei Silva, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem, has a tremendous fan base stemming from his long MMA and kickboxing career in Japan. Additionally, in 2001, the New Zealander became the K-1 World Grand Prix champion. If Hunt wishes to duplicate this success and become a MMA world champion, modifications to his game, accompanied by a cut in weight may be in order.

Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! News. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.

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