Looking Ahead – UFC Auckland: Hunt vs. Lewis Main Card Preview

UFC Auckland Mark Hunt
Mark Hunt Credit: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

We preview UFC Auckland, airing this weekend on FOX Sports 1 with a main event featuring heavyweights Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis.

Sometime towards Sunday evening in Auckland, New Zealand (Saturday night for those of us in North America, and everyone else, check your time zones!), Godzilla and King Kong are set to clash. Well, not literally, sadly, but close enough. At UFC Fight Night 110 at the Spark Arena, Mark Hunt will meet Derrick Lewis in the main event. There will be over five hundred pounds of heavyweight monster in the cage when the sixth and seventh ranked fighters in the division collide, and it’s a safe bet someone’s getting knocked out.

Call it a scientific fact: there’s about a 99.998% chance the main event does not go the distance. We swear that’s accurate. Hunt and Lewis are the heaviest of the heavy hitters in the UFC, after all. Lewis is on a five fight win streak, and has finished six of those; Hunt, while entering the night off a loss to Alistair Overeem, hasn’t won a fight by decision since 2011.

Don’t blink.

That having been said, there’s a lot of other action on the card. Daniel Kelly brings the power of the “dad bod” over from Australia, where he faces perhaps his toughest test in Derek Brunson. Also on the six fight main card, New Zealand’s own Dan Hooker faces tough veteran Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson, and flyweight challenger Tim Elliot looks to work his way back to another shot against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson when he faces Ben Nguyen.

There’s a lot to comb through, so lets break down the main card, which airs on Fox Sports 1 (TSN in Canada).

6. Alexander Volkanovski vs. Mizuto Hirota

UFC Fight Night 110 in Auckland opens with a featherweight showdown between Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (14-1) and Japan’s Mizuto Hirota (19-7-2). As anyone who’s a fan of Japanese MMA knows, their fighters haven’t exactly had an easy go of it in the UFC of late. At least in this case, Hirota’s not fighting too far from home, but he’s still got a tough road ahead of him in Volkanovski.

Fighting out of New South Wales, Australia, Volkanovski has not lost since 2013, his one and only defeat. He made a successful UFC debut in his last bout, finishing another Japanese fighter, Yusuke Kasuya, at UFC Fight Night 101 in November. He’s looking to make it two in a row, and make a statement as well.

Mizuto Hirota will be looking to stay undefeated in his second UFC tour of duty when he faces the highly motivated Volkanovski Saturday. After going 0-2 and getting cut in 2013, three straight wins in DEEP brought him back to the promotion. Since re-joining the fold, he’s gone 1-0-1, fighting to a draw with Teruto Ishihara in Japan at UFC Fight Night 75, then defeating Cole Miller by unanimous decision in December.

Hirota’s going to need to pull out all the stops to overcome the pressure of the determined Volkanovski in this one.

5. Tim Elliot vs. Ben Nguyen

Prior to The Ultimate Fighter 24, Tim Elliot seemed like an also-ran in the UFC. He’d been there, won a few, lost a few more, and was gone. Then he signed on with Titan FC, won their flyweight championship, defended it twice, and jumped back to the UFC as part of TUF 24, which he won, earning himself a crack at champ Demetrious Johnson.

If Elliot had lost badly to the man many consider to be the pound-for-pound best fighter currently on the UFC roster, no one would have blinked an eye. Instead, Elliot (14–7–1) gave Mighty Mouse one of his best challenges in years. While it ended in a loss, it’s one of those rare Johnson fights that you really do want to see again, because “what if?” Elliot certainly gave the champ some problems in their first fight, after all.

Following the loss to Johnson in December, Elliot bounced back against Louis Smolka at UFC on Fox 24 this past April. He’ll look to make it two in a row against Nguyen, which given the carnage the champ has wrought at flyweight puts him right back in the thick of things.

Twelfth ranked Nguyen (17–6), meanwhile, enters UFC Auckland coming off a win over Geane Herrera at UFC Fight Night 101. Prior to that, however, he’d suffered a loss to Smolka, the man Elliot just defeated. MMA math stinks (math period, says this writer), but this really feels like Elliot’s fight to lose.

4. Ion Cutelaba vs. Henrique da Silva

Over to the light heavyweight division we go for the third fight of the UFC Fight Night 110 card. Ion Cutelaba (12–3 (1)) hits hard, and he’s not afraid to stand and trade. That said, after earning nine of his first eleven wins by KO/TKO, the Moldovan has failed to find the same success in the big show. He’s 1-2 since joining the UFC, with the lone win being a decision against Jonathan Wilson at UFC Fight Night 96 last October.

If Ronny Jason gets to come out with a hockey mask, should “Frankenstein” walk to the cage wearing neck bolts? And yes, Frankenstein was actually the doctor. In any case, Henrique da Silva (12-2) has a monster of a task ahead of him. He’s 2-2 in the promotion thus far, but has lost two straight, and as shallow as the 205lb weight class is, he does not want to make that three.

This is one of those scraps that could go two ways: a pair of fighters playing it safe, because a loss could cost them their spot on the roster, or a pair of fighters tearing the house down, because a big win secures their spot.

3. Dan Hooker vs. Ross Pearson

Lightweight Ross Pearson says he won’t retire because of his “stubborn” heart despite a rough patch heading into UFC Fight Night 110. Which is just fine, because he’s a game fighter who always shows up to throw down. Meeting him in this case will be New Zealand’s own Dan Hooker, however, and it’s never fun to be entering into enemy territory.

Pearson (19–13 (1)), who won the Ultimate Fighter 9 lightweight tournament, has lost three straight. Despite his tenure with the promotion, he needs to get back on track here, which should make the “Real Deal” real motivated.

Hooker (13–7), on the other hand, has been trading wins and losses since joining the UFC in 2014. He’s 3-3 in the promotion, and coming off a loss to Jason Knight. He makes his UFC lightweight debut here, though he has competed at 155lbs before. This one could go either way, and both men should look motivated: Pearson to avoid dropping four straight, Hooker to put on a show for the hometown crowd.

2. Derek Brunson vs. Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly might have the “dad bod” of a thirty-nine year old man, but he’s a thirty-nine year old man who is 6-1 in the UFC. He meets his toughest test yet in Derek Brunson in the co-main event of UFC Auckland, and if he pulls this one off, don’t ever bet against him again.

Kelly (13–1) has had a remarkable run in the UFC, which turned into a feelgood story thanks to the whole “dad bod” concept that grew around him. Yet regardless of body type he has consistently shown a heck of a heart in the cage, which has allowed him to win four straight. His most recent victory was a close split decision against Rashad Evans at UFC 209, but that’s still a win over a former UFC champion.

Derek Brunson, meanwhile, may still be feeling robbed after his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 208, a fight many felt he won. That loss dropped him to 0-2 in his last two fights, but prior to that he had pulled off five straight wins over some tough competition, including four straight stoppages against Ed Herman, Sam Alvey, Roan Carneiro, and Uriah Hall.

It really does feel like Brunson will come storming out of the gate here — but that cost him against Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Night 101 last year. And you should never underestimate the power of the dad bod.

1. Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt

King Kong vs. Godzilla. Megashark vs. Giant Octopus. Two other very big things doing battle. In short, Lewis vs. Hunt should feel like worlds colliding. We hope. Because if the main event goes five rounds, we could be in for a very long night.

Lewis and Hunt are ranked sixth and seventh in the UFC heavyweight division, respectively, but their career trajectory could not be more different. Hunt, who has been dealing with distractions from lawsuits to ridiculous action figures, would be on a two fight losing streak had Brock Lesnar not tested positive for a banned substance prior to UFC 200, resulting in his win over Hunt being switched to a No Contest. Hunt (12–11–1 (1)), who may just be the most popular heavyweight on the roster, is at 43 finally reaching the end of his career.

Lewis (18–4 (1)), at 32, is practically a baby in the greying heavyweight division, and has also become a fan favorite thanks to violent knockouts and a unique sense of uncensored humor. He’s coming off six straight wins, including finishes of Gabriel Gonzaga and Travis Browne.

So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

We find out at UFC Auckland this weekend!