The UFC’s ultimate underdog may have suffered a setback last weekend, but don’t expect to see Mark Hunt fading out of the UFC’s heavyweight division any time soon.

Hunt stood toe-to-toe with Junior dos Santos for almost 15 full minutes at UFC 160 last Saturday, and while he wasn’t quite able to pull off the win, he once again proved that he can hang with some of the best fighters on the planet. Hunt suffered through a broken toe, fought back heavy fatigue and ate some of dos Santos’ ridiculous punches for the majority of their bout, but in the end “The Super Samoan” just didn’t have enough in the tank to get the job done. An out-of-nowhere spinning heel kick from “Cigano” eventually sent an exhausted Hunt falling towards the mat and an unusually intense dos Santos rushed in and finished his opponent off with a punch to end the fight. The loss to dos Santos is undoubtedly a major setback towards Hunt’s goals of competing for a UFC belt one day, but Hunt’s recent rise up the UFC ladder was more than impressive enough to keep him near the top of the card for a while.

Heading into the bout against dos Santos, things couldn’t have been going much better for “The Super Samoan.” After joining the UFC with a 5-6 career MMA record, Hunt was in the midst of the biggest roll of his MMA career before UFC 160, winning his last four bouts inside the Octagon and taking out tough competition in Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve in his two most recent appearances. Hunt entered both the Kongo and Struve bouts as an underdog, but he has made a career out of winning fights he was supposed to lose and found a way to take care of business. He ended up knocking out both men, thus solidifying his spot as a top-10 heavyweight in the UFC. Suddenly, the man who once defeated Wanderlei Silva and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic during their respective heydays in Pride was being looked at as a legitimate threat to earn a title shot.

Getting knocked out by dos Santos in his next bout didn’t exactly help Hunt’s standing in the division, but Hunt’s exciting style and ability to take and dish out punishment should be more than enough to convince the UFC that fans still want to see the New Zealander in high-profile match-ups.

Although Hunt isn’t likely to draw another top contender in his next bout, there are a few opponents sitting in the top 10 that make sense for Hunt to fight next. The most obvious fight to make for Hunt would be to match him up against the other big loser from last weekend’s event, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Silva was absolutely destroyed by Cain Velasquez for the second time in barely a year, and although he’s still ranked as high as No. 4 in the official UFC rankings, it’s unlikely that Bigfoot is going to be fighting in any title eliminators any time soon. A match-up between Bigfoot and Hunt makes a ton of sense, and since both fighters competed last weekend, the timing works out perfectly. Throw in the fact that both Bigfoot and Hunt have some serious knockout power in their hands, and not only does the fight makes sense, it has the potential to be extremely entertaining as well.

Whether or not a potential Hunt vs. Bigfoot match-up is made remains to be seen, but despite his loss last weekend, Hunt deserves an opponent of Silva’s caliber in his next fight. Putting on a “Fight of the Night”-winning slugfest against the best boxer in the division in dos Santos is nothing to be ashamed of, and the UFC shouldn’t send Hunt too far back down the heavyweight ladder after such an entertaining performance.

He may not look like the typical fighter, and his 9-8 career record doesn’t exactly scream “top-tier heavyweight,” but Hunt has earned his spot among the best in the heavyweight division over the last few years. “The Super Samoan’s” incredible rise from a sub-.500 fighter to a top contender in the UFC’s most dangerous division is one of the better stories in MMA, and although he didn’t pass his first test against an elite heavyweight in the UFC, don’t be surprised if Hunt earns another opportunity to shock the world before he decides to hang up his gloves.

Photo: Mark Hunt (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

  • C Worthington

    Couldn’t agree with you more.. The Mark Hunt vs JDS fight had more tension and action in it than the Cain vs Silva fight ..when you consider that Mark Hunt broke his toe in the first round limiting his movement it makes his performance with a razor sharp JDS even more remarkable…