UFC Auckland got off to a slow start Saturday (Sunday for those attending the event in Auckland, New Zealand). That said, once the main card got underway, it was nothing but finishes, with fighters apparently concerned they’d left something in the oven (or, in Ion Cutelaba’s case, wanting to say goodnight to his young daughter, as he later told Brian Stann).
That means there was no shortage of action to pick from when it came to fight night bonuses, and ultimately, the promotion went with the main event of Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis for Fight of the Night. Performance of the Night bonuses went to Dan Hooker and Ben Nguyen. All four were awarded $50,000 U.S. for their efforts. The promotion announced the news at the post-fight press conference following the UFC Auckland card.
There’s really no question that Fight of the Night belonged to Derrick Lewis and Mark Hunt. The pair of behemoths slugged it out for four rounds, with Lewis (18–5 (1)) showing an expanded arsenal, and Hunt (13–11–1 (1)) displaying more patience and better footwork than he has in some time. Eventually, a tired Lewis became an easy target for Hunt, and the ref waived off the action in the fourth round. That put a stop to a six fight win streak by Lewis, and put 43 year old Mark Hunt back in the win column. Lewis hinted at retirement after the bout, but didn’t commit to it, while Hunt would later state that he has a few fights left in him.
Performance of the Night bonus winner Ben Nguyen (18–6) likely scored the biggest upset of the night by making short work of former title challenger Tim Elliott (14–8–1). Nguyen was impressive rolling with the tricky Elliott, and managed to sink in a rear-naked choke in under a minute in the very first round.
The other Performance of the Night bonus wound up awarded to Dan Hooker (14-7), who knocked out longtime veteran Ross Pearson ( 19–14 (1)) with a knee in the second round of their main card scrap. That dropped Pearson to four straight losses in the UFC, and while he was in the fight, at this point in his career, it might be time for a difficult decision. Hooker, meanwhile, has been trading wins and losses of late, but this bonus should make the win that much sweeter.