UFC Fight Night 52: Hunt vs Nelson could be a brawl for the ages


For the third time in as many years the UFC will plant its flag in the Japanese city of Saitama, as they continue to intensify their presence in the Asian marketplace in an unrelenting quest for world domination.

Mixed Martial Arts has a storied history in the land of the Samurai that includes many early Vale Tudo competitions, as well as the famed Pride FC, which the UFC purchased in 2007.

Founded in 1997, Pride was where fighters such as Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Shogun Rua, Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and the Nogueira brothers all made their name around the turn of the century. When the UFC purchased the promotion, the initial plan was run the promotions concurrently, but Dana White eventually took the decision to fold the Pride brand.

Since then, the sport’s popularity has largely declined in Japan, and the UFC have tentatively undertaken the task of repairing the damage. The lack of top class events is the not the sole reason for MMA’s dip; despite having plethora of fighters in the UFC, only one, Yushin Okami has fought for the world title, but he was subsequently released. Events such as this are not just about having boots on the ground for the promotion, but hopefully the unearthing of an indigenous talent who can be the figurehead for their expansion in the country, á la Conor McGregor here, or Alexander Gustaffson on Sweden.

So far, a genuine candidate is yet to emerge, but shows such as this, littered with local fighters, is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, Dana and matchmaker Joe Silva have manufactured a main event with literally zero chance of being boring.

Heavyweight dust-up

Aesthetically speaking, neither Roy Nelson nor Mark Hunt bear the slightest resemblance to what would be considered the stereotypical prize-fighter. To go by, shall we say, their generously proportioned physiques, one would get impression that their biggest source of exercise is the walk from the coach to the fridge for the remnant of the previous night’s Dominos meal deal. Roy Nelson’s donning of a mullet and Grizzly Adams beard, only adds to what is a surreal look.

Looks can be deceiving, however. And, there is a laundry list of muscle-bound specimens who have been bludgeoned into a temporary coma by this pair. At this stage, the very sight of Roy Nelson has Dan White breaking out in hives, such is disdain for the former teacher, but even he cannot deny his penchant for all-out slugfests.

Yes, Nelson has always faltered when faced with the upper echelon of the division and, at 38, he’s not likely to change his lack-lustre approach to conditioning or fulfill his potential, but that’s beside the point. His over-hand right is arguably the most potent tool in the entire sport; just ask Brendan Schaub, Stefan Struve, Matt Mitrione, Dave Herman, Cheick Kongo and Minotauro Nogueira, all of whom have been rendered unconscious within the first round. Moreover, he has a Homer Simpson-like capacity for punishment.

Mark Hunt was one of the former Pride fighters that came over after the acquisition, and in the interim has resuscitated what was an ailing career. Hunt is a former K-1 kickboxing champion and is firm favourite with the notoriously vociferous Japanese fans. He, too, has pure TNT in his hands and a skull which is surely comprised of mahogany.

For anyone who does not enjoy the grappling aspects of MMA and are purely watching for a Rocky-style dust-up, this one will be right up your alley. There will be no takedowns, feeling out period or elusive movement around the cage. From the first bell there will be a meeting in the middle and then all hell will break loose.

Expect nothing less than a back and forth exchange of haymakers from start to finish. There are only two likely outcomes; the first, someone connects clean early and that’s all she wrote, or a 25 minute war of attrition that could push the boundaries of human endurance. Should be fun.

Young gun takes on the old school

In the co-main event, undefeated lightweight prospect Myles Jury squares off against local hero Takanori Gomi. Jury, one of the hottest young talents in the sport, is a wonderfully technical operator with no majorly discernible flaws. Gomi, despite coming off a win, is on the wrong side of his best years, and was likely given such a prestigious placing on the card to draw local fans. The trajectory of their careers are on very different slants, and Jury knows, an impressive victory is likely to land him a top 10 opponent in his next fight.

Girl Power

One-time title challenger Miesha Tate locks horns with Rin Nakai, the poster-girl of women’s MMA in Japan. The latter is undefeated, but is making her promotional debut, and will be making a huge jump in competition, so the odds appear stacked against her. That said, she has black-belt level Judo and crisp boxing, so Tate will have her hands full.

Coverage of the event will streamed live on UFC Fight Pass from 8 am on Saturday morning, then repeated on BT Sport 2 at 9 pm.

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