When it comes down to it, Frank Mir assuming Alistair Overeem’s place at UFC 146 makes the most sense. Mir is on a bit of a career streak, is a top five heavyweight and is already on the card. It would leave Cain Velasquez out in the cold but you could always shift over Fabricio Werdum to this card, or move Cain off it and onto UFC 147 in Brazil, in order to maintain the sort of fight caliber the former champion deserves. Because of Overeem’s elevated testosterone levels there’s no way Mir, Dos Santos and Velasquez can stay in their scheduled fights.
It makes sense to bump Mir up, as he’s a former champion and Velasquez/Dos Santos is the last fight either fighter had, but one fighter who’s been gaining steam amongst fans and press could potentially make a case for fighting in the main event: Mark Hunt.
Hunt is in a bit of career renaissance ever since having his contract fulfilled as part of the last business of the sale of Pride. After being quickly submitted by Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut, Hunt has knocked out Cheick Kongo and Chris Tuchscherer as well as dominating Ben Rothwell for three rounds. He’s having the sort of career resurgence that former boxing star James J Braddock had at the end of his career, I think, and a UFC title shot would make the story come full circle.
But can you make a case for him? Absolutely.
Hunt is a former K-1 Grand Prix champion and would mark the first time a K-1 heavyweight Grand Prix champion would challenge for the UFC heavyweight title. Hunt is a fairly legendary kickboxer who has been in kickboxing fights with the best that sport has ever seen. He has done the same in MMA as well, having famously nearly completed an Americana on Fedor at the peak of his abilities. His record might not be spectacular but he has a who’s who of MMA on his record. Unlike many heavyweights there are no slouches on his record. He might not have a top fighter on his record recently but his overall fighting resume is remarkable in comparison to many fighters.
Coming off a three fight win streak, he also has the same amount of wins in a row that Mir has. Kongo, Tuchscherer and Rothwell might not stack up to Roy Nelson, Mirko Filipovic and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira but it’s not significantly worse as well. Plenty of fighters have gotten title shots with lesser names in terms of recent victories; if Brock Lesnar can get a title shot with a dismantling of Heath Herring (after a loss to Mir in his debut) than you can certainly justify Hunt being moved into the main event slot on a similar basis.
While the fight with Stefan Struve had all the potential to be a fun one, Hunt in the main event is a much more intriguing fight than the one with Struve. Why? JDS/Hunt is almost guaranteed to be a spectacular five round brawl that’ll see just how much Dos Santos does in him as a fighter as Hunt will be the best striker he has ever faced.
Mark Hunt may be glaringly deficient in a number of areas traditionally, as his submission defense skills have been glaring, but the one thing that JDS won’t have the significant advantage in this fight is in the striking department. Hunt had a fairly substantial and legendary career in kickboxing and his refined striking skills and power are equal to or greater than JDS in many ways. If Dos Santos wants to stand and play the kickboxing game Mark Hunt can give and take a beating that the champion will have never faced before.
The one thing that also makes Mark Hunt vs. Junior Dos Santos into a fun fight would be that Hunt comes into it as a massive underdog that could potentially become one of the best promoted fights of the year. Hunt is on a renaissance, a last improbable run to cap off one of the wildest careers possible. People love an underdog as well.
Over the past couple years Hunt has dropped plenty of weight and has seemingly, inexplicably developed something that resembles a grappling game. The armbar attempt he nearly finished against Rothwell may not have been the prettiest but no one could’ve imagined that Mark Hunt would almost finish a fight with an armbar in their wildest dreams.
Hunt also makes for a more compelling story opposite Junior Dos Santos than Frank Mir does, frankly, and it’s why the groundswell has developed. Mir is the appropriate candidate to step into the slot and by all rights should; if anyone has earned another crack at the UFC title it’s one of the stalwarts of the division. But Hunt’s a sexier pick in story and you can make a case for it at UFC 146.