Gold in Mexico: Werdum vs Hunt preview
In MMA Bird’s Eyes final look at Mark Hunt’s journey to fight for UFC gold in Mexico, lets think for one minute about how different things could have been if the UFC brass had given him a shot against then UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos at UFC 146. Hunt would have had a tasty technical brawl with Dos Santos, the younger and hungrier fighter winning, similar to their actual meeting at UFC 160.
Just over two years later Hunt finally gets a shot at a UFC title, all be it the Interim strap, and this #rallyformarkhunt ‘nonsense’ is really starting to make a lot of sense. I don’t know if the world is actually ready for a Mark Hunt win, because it will blow our collective minds, if in Mexico City on November 15 Mark can defeat Fabricio Werdum (November 16 in Australia and New Zealand).
Mark entered the UFC Octagon in 2010 on a 5 fight skid and right now, despite a recent record of 1-1-1, Mark Hunt is preparing to enter the biggest stage imaginable to ply the trade that he believes was a gift from God. The paradox of the heavyweight division is that a fighter like Hunt is so relevant and is still a threat coming in at such a disadvantage against Brazilian Fabricio Werdum.
Hunt will attempt to capture the UFC Interim heavyweight title 13 years after his 2001 K-1 Grand Prix Championship and the keys are for him are to harness his fighting and brawling style. Should he defeat Werdum as a 4-1 underdog, it would cap-off the the greatest story in combat sports as described by UFC President Dana White.
Werdum is legitimately placed in the top 3 fighters in the heavyweight division and won a eliminator fight against Travis Browne to confirm his challenger status. Werdum appears super confident in his striking and ability to get Hunt to the mat where he holds a significant advantage as the most decorated grappler in the heavyweight division, with mutliple Mundial and ADCC titles. All this is accounted to be dire news for the ‘Super Samoan’, however underneath Hunt’s opera-sized exterior is the will and heart of a champion.
There is another icon of Australian and New Zealand sport who we should look to for some perspective, the ‘wonder horse’ Phar Lap. There is no greater underdog legend than this horse who defied all odds. Like Hunt he was born in New Zealand and brought to Australia where he was trained. During The Great Depression Phar Lap became a national hero in Australia and New Zealand winning every major race including the 1930 Melbourne Cup.
Phar Laps first and last race overseas was in Tijuana, Mexico, in the 1932 Agua Caliente Handicap, the richest race in North America, which he won. Tragically still in his prime Phar Lap would never race again, he was placed on a farm awaiting his next race and died suddenly either by poisoning or a stomach infection. His hide and heart are preserved in Australian musuem’s and most notably his heart is twice the size of a normal horses heart.
The overlap of Hunt and Phar Laps stories is eery: both possess heart in spades, born in New Zealand, spent the bulk of their careers in Australia and will face defining moments in Mexico. I am not for a second saying this will be Mark’s last fight, but if Phar Lap’s story bears relevance to Hunt it is that he is poised to be the champion in a time of confusion globally. Can Fabricio ‘Via Cavalo’ Werdum (Go Horse) spoil the storyline in this match race?
Mexico is again the site of an Australian and New Zealand legend in the making, will the ghost of legends past play a part in one of the biggest tests in Hunt’s career, find out on November 15.