Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

UFC 144 Preview: Mark Hunt vs. Cheick Kongo

Mark Hunt has had one of the most unique careers in MMA history. It’s not often that a 1-1 fighter faces the likes of Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop, but Hunt did. It’s not often that a 5-2 fighter takes on Fedor Emelianenko in a championship match, but Hunt did. Mark Hunt’s overall record is 7-7, but here is his full list of career opponents:

  • Hidehiko Yoshida
  • Dan Bobish
  • Wanderlei Silva
  • Mirko Cro Cop
  • Yosuke Nishijima
  • Tsuyoshi Kosaka
  • Josh Barnett
  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Alistair Overeem
  • Melvin Manhoef
  • Gegard Mousasi
  • Sean McCorkle
  • Chris Tuchscherer
  • Ben Rothwell

In a word, that’s crazy. Hunt might have just 14 fights as a professional, but in terms of experience against tough competition, Hunt has more of it than most fighters in the UFC. His UFC 144 opponent, Cheick Kongo, is no exception.

Mark Hunt also represents one of the most specialized fighters in MMA. I don’t recommend that anybody strikes with Hunt ever. Hunt isn’t the most visually impressive guy, but he has a ton of KO power, and pretty good striking technique to go along with it. Try to strike with Hunt, like Chris Tuchscherer did, and you’ll end up face-down on the canvas. Take Hunt down, and you’ll probably be at least attempting a submission within 60 seconds.

The reason this fight is so intriguing is that Cheick Kongo is primarily a striker himself, and a very good one too. Given the tendency of both of these men to stand and strike, it’s hardly a stretch to think they might go toe-to-toe and slug it out.

But something tells me that isn’t going to happen. Kongo might like to strike, but he’s not a bad wrestler either, and even though Kongo very rarely goes for submissions, seeing an opponent like Hunt might encourage him to try his hand at the ground game. Usually, when Kongo fights, he’ll take his opponent down and start smashing him with a ground and pound barrage. Against Mark Hunt, I can see Cheick Kongo actually trying some submissions. I’m not predicting this, but I’m acknowledging the possibility.

Of course, Ben Rothwell tried that against Hunt in his last fight, and mostly due to fatigue, was unable to finish the “Super Samoan.” Instead, it was Hunt who won an entertaining but horribly sloppy fight.

If this fight is a striking match, I have to slightly favor Hunt. Kongo’s striking numbers are actually better, but Hunt is known for being incredibly tough to knock out. Kongo hardly has a glass chin himself, but he was tagged by Frank Mir, and given wobbly legs by Pat Barry. Mir and Barry each have a lot of striking power, but you’d better believe Mark Hunt has just as much power, if not more.

SILVA PREDICTION: CHEICK KONGO (55.77) OVER MARK HUNT (42.06)

While I would slightly favor Hunt standing, I would strongly favor Kongo on the ground, particularly because Kongo is more likely to be the one executing takedowns. Hunt is not the easiest fighter to take down, but when he does go down, like I said, he’s often grimacing while trying to escape a submission moments later. Hunt cannot be counted out, because he can end this fight by KO at any moment, but as long as Kongo doesn’t spend this whole fight playing Hunt’s game, I have to favor him to win.

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