Mark Hunt is without a doubt one of the greatest heavyweight combat sports athletes of all time and at 44 years-old he continues to fight the best the division has to offer.
Now with 16 UFC fights under his belt he finally faces off with someone his own age when he takes on MMA grappling legend Alexey Oleynik in the main event of UFC Fight Night 136 in Moscow, Russia.
King of The Walk-off
Hunt is known for many things, but what has him heralded as one of the greatest heavyweights to ever do it is his unmatched power in his hands. Of his 13 MMA wins, 10 are by knockout with his last decision win coming in 2011. Hunt’s 13-12 MMA record is by no means impressive, but he got into the sport at 30 years-old and immediately started fighting the best MMA fighters in the world including wins over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Filipovic just one year into his career. Hunt also competed against some of the best kickboxers in the world during a golden era in the sport, including Semmy Schilt, Jerome Le Banner, Ray Sefo and Ernesto Hoost.
Nobody in MMA history has as much confidence in their power as Hunt, which led to him becoming known as the king of the walk-off knockout. Some of Hunt’s punches don’t look like they have much power behind them, but they send heavyweights crashing to the mat like they’ve been hit with a baseball bat. Nobody knows why or how somebody possesses fight-ending power in their punches but whatever it is, Hunt has it.
Hunt’s style is simplistic. He either jabs up his opponents before leading with an overhand right or sits back and waits for his prey to strike first, where he can land his counter right hook. Instead of developing a deep bag of tricks, Hunt decided to perfect what got him to the dance, even if it means foes knowing what’s coming. Although opponents know Hunt is looking for the right hand, he has so many setups and baits that he still routinely lands it with ease. Notice against “Cro Cop” how he jabs and feints a straight to the body before coming up with a straight right to the head. This combo was used against him in his kickboxing fight with Jerome Le Banner and just a year later Hunt used it against the Croatian.
Early in his career Hunt favored his counter lead hook and it still shows up today, but usually used as a leading attack to set up his right hand. He famously knocked out the much taller Stefan Struve with a lead hook and caught Derrick Lewis with a counter lead hook a few times in their fight. Since opponents are wary of his power, they generally don’t lead first so we don’t get to see this counter lead hook often, but he has it if needed.
Although known for his leading attacks and walk off knockouts, Hunt spent a lot of his early career working on the counter and often does his best work with his counter right. Against Silva, Hunt landed multiple counter right hooks and nearly finished the fight in the first round with a counter right and a flurry of punches after.
Something Hunt doesn't throw nearly enough but has had success with are leg kicks. Coming from a kickboxing background, Hunt knows how to use his leg kicks but rarely throws them in MMA. With his tree trunk sized legs these kicks cause lots of damage and often stumble opponents. They are also the perfect set up for his right hand, but he chooses to only throw them on occasion. At 44 years-old, I doubt we see Hunt add a new tactic to his game, but it would be nice to see him go back to his roots and incorporate more leg kicks into his striking.
Since Hunt came from kickboxing and didn’t start MMA until he was 30, he never had the time to develop a well-rounded grappling game and has been dominated on the ground many times in the past. He took one of the worst beatings in UFC history on the ground against former champion Stipe Miocic and was recently commanded on the mat by young prospect Curtis Blaydes. Oleynik is one of the greatest submission specialists in heavyweight MMA history and could dominate Hunt if he can get him down. But if the fight stays standing in Hunt’s wheelhouse, we could see another highlight knockout by “The Super Samoan.”