With Overeem Injured, Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt Is the Only Fight to Make
At the rate we're going, it feels like we're never going to see Junior dos Santos take on his archrival Alistair Overeem.
In case you missed Wednesday's news, Overeem has been forced to pull out of his planned UFC 160 bout with dos Santos due to an undisclosed injury.
And before you start spreading rumors about Overeem pulling out because he wouldn't be allowed a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy, let me put that notion to rest: Overeem has an actual injury. It's the real deal, but it's not major and he'll be ready to fight by July.
The UFC could decide to pull dos Santos from UFC 160 and move the fight two months down the line to UFC 162 in Las Vegas. That card will serve as part of the UFC's now-annual "International Fight Week," which is somewhat like its yearly version of WrestleMania. There will be a Fan Expo and all sorts of fan events taking place, and with Anderson Silva taking on Chris Weidman in the main event, it will have a big-fight feel.
If dos Santos vs. Overeem is added to that card, well, you can't blame the UFC for making that decision.
But if the UFC decides to keep dos Santos on the May card against a new opponent, there's only one man for the job: Mark Hunt.
In 2012, I was often vocal about Hunt being an undeserving contender. The fans rallied behind Hunt as he worked up a winning streak after being counted down and out for so many years. It was a fun story, but it was a story that had to come to a screeching halt sooner rather than later.
But after Hunt knocked out Stefan Struve to score his fourth consecutive win in the heavyweight division, well, it's probably time for me to admit that Hunt deserves the chance to face a top five opponent. The problem was that all of those opponents were booked up, which meant that Hunt would likely spend some time on the shelf if he wanted to face anyone of real value.
But that all changed on Wednesday. With Overeem on the sidelines, Hunt is the perfect replacement to step in and face dos Santos. And as crazy as it may sound on paper, I think Hunt makes for an interesting stylistic matchup for the former heavyweight champion.
Dos Santos loves to box. That's his thing. We've heard he's great on the ground, but we've never seen him willingly take a fight there. He's happiest when he's standing in the pocket and using his excellent boxing skills to pick his opponents apart, and he's been very good at it.
Hunt is also a striker. He's no longer terrible on the ground; even though he'll never be a grappling wizard, we saw enough improvements against Struve to know that he's been working hard on shoring up his mat game. But again, he'll never be a grappler.
He loves to strike, punch dudes in the face and score walk-off knockout wins. And despite his portly physique, there's little debate that Hunt is an excellent striker. You don't win a K-1 World Grand Prix by being average on your feet, after all.
Imagine, if you will, a fight where dos Santos and Hunt are violently trading punches. That gets your heart racing a little bit, doesn't it?
And what happens if Hunt pulls off a miracle and beats dos Santos? What happens if he knocks the former heavyweight champion out with a single punch and calmly walks off, as if any other result would have been a surprise?
At that point, you would have a new heavyweight title contender. Hunt would have five consecutive victories in the UFC's tough heavyweight division, a place where even the best fighters only manage to string together three to four wins, if they're lucky.
Hunt would have a win over the former heavyweight champion. And he'd have all kinds of momentum on his side heading into a fall title fight against the winner of Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva, which takes place on the same card.
I still want to see dos Santos and Overeem square off. There's a lot of bad blood there, and it would be an exciting fight. But if dos Santos doesn't want to wait, or if the UFC decides his star power is needed on the May card, then Hunt is the only real option for a replacement opponent.
Hunt for gold, indeed.