UFC 200 Opening Odds Breakdown: Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt

Brock LesnarEvent: UFC 200 Date: July 89th, 2016 Location: Las Vegas, Nevada Venue: T-Mobile Arena Broadcast: Pay-Per-View The evening of UFC 199 ended up being a huge one for the promotion both inside and outside of the Octagon. Inside, Michael Bisping pulled off a shocking upset of Luke Rockhold to become the first British champion in the history of the UFC. That capped off an action-packed card, but it was certainly not the biggest talking point coming out of the event. Outside of the Octagon, there was a huge controversy in the MMA media, and two massive fight bookings. First, the organization announced that UFC 202 will play host to the rematch between Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor. Then, when they revealed the commercial for UFC 200 — which ironically is what got McGregor removed from that card — it ended with a shot of Brock Lesnar. His return was officially confirmed shortly thereafter with an opponent to be determined later. That opponent was announced on Tuesday morning, as Lesnar appeared on Sportscenter and named Mark Hunt as the man who will welcome him back to the Octagon. UFC Heavyweight Contender Mark Hunt (12-10-1) Mark Hunt’s career has been one of streaks. He won five fights in a row early in his career (including decisions over Mirko ‘CroCop’ and Wanderlei Silva), then proceeded to lose six straight — including his UFC debut — all by stoppage. At that point, Hunt had a 5-7 record in MMA and seemed destined to fight out his old PRIDE contract (the only reason he got into the UFC in the first place) and disappear. Then, something crazy happened. He won. The first time against Chris Tuchscherer. Then against Ben Rothwell (albeit in an absolutely dreadful fight). Knockouts of Cheick Kongo and Stefan Struve followed, and suddenly Mark Hunt was a contender. His remarkable turnaround even prompted #RallyForMarkHunt to fill in for a short notice title fight. Unfortunately he didn’t get the title shot, and his four-fight winning streak came to an end against Junior dos Santos. However, he rebounded with a fight of the year contender against ‘Bigfoot’ Silva (which ended in a Draw/No Contest, depending on who you ask), and a knockout of Roy Nelson. Following those fights, he did get the call for the short notice title fight, and was looking good against Fabricio Werdum until he was felled by a flying knee. His next performance was a tough one, as current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic dominated him for four and a half rounds before the fight was mercifully stopped. The amount of damage he took in the stretch from JDS-Miocic had many thinking it may be time for him to step away from MMA. Instead, Hunt has answered back with back-to-back first round knockouts of ‘Bigfoot’ and Frank Mir. His style almost assures him of being in fun fights, and his availability was exactly what the UFC needed for Brock Lesnar’s return. For a man who has fought for both the UFC and PRIDE heavyweight titles, this will be the highest profile bout of his career, and certainly the type of payday any 42-year-old would welcome. Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar (5-3) One of the most prodigious athletes to ever enter MMA, perhaps the biggest misstep of Brock Lesnar’s career is simply that MMA wasn’t bigger when he was just finishing his amateur wrestling career. Upon the end of that chapter of his life, he joined the WWE in 2000, becoming one of the biggest pro wrestling stars in the world. He also tried out for the NFL despite not playing football since high school, and made the practice roster for the Minnesota Vikings in 2004. After a few more years back in pro wrestling, Lesnar announced that he would make his MMA debut for K-1. He was instantly one of the biggest attractions in the sport, and won his debut in little over a minute. The UFC immediately took notice of Lesnar’s star power — and legitimate ability — and signed him. His UFC debut ended in a loss to Frank Mir via kneebar, but showed flashes of the dominant force Lesnar could be. He followed that up with an easy unanimous decision victory over Heath Herring, effectively ending Herring’s career. His notoriety saw him advanced faster than any fighter in UFC history, and in just his fourth pro fight he was competing for the UFC title against Randy Couture. The bigger, younger, faster, stronger wrestler emerged victorious, and the UFC had a crossover star as their champion. However, at the same time, Frank Mir had captured the interim heavyweight title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, setting up a showdown between the two which would headline UFC 100, still the company’s biggest selling PPV to date. Lesnar smashed Mir in their rematch, unifying the heavyweight title in the process. His career would start to derail after UFC 100 due to illness, and he would spend a year out of the Octagon. His return at UFC 116 resulted in one of the greatest in-fight comebacks in UFC history, as he was bludgeoned in the first round by Shane Carwin, but survived to score an arm-triangle submission in the second. That would be has last win in the Octagon however, as he would lose his title to Cain Velasquez just three months later. Then he got stopped by Alistair Overeem following another year-plus layoff. Following the Overeem bout, Lesnar returned to the WWE, where he has been working for nearly the past five years. The announcement that Lesnar was returning to the UFC at UFC 200 instantly made a massive card even bigger, and he could be the reason that the event becomes the new biggest selling card in the promotion’s history. Opening Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Hunt a -150 favorite (bet $150 to win $100) with Lesnar a +120 underdog (bet $100 to win $120) at Several Bookmakers. Each fighter has a clear way to win this bout, as Hunt’s massive KO power could stop Lesnar at any point, while Lesnar’s wrestling could take that weapon away and allow him to either replicate Stipe Miocic’s performance, or perhaps find a submission. The popular pick in most MMA circles early seems to be Hunt, which makes complete sense. In spite of that, I think Lesnar gets the job done here. He’s generally risen to the moment in big fights, and his return here will be absolutely massive. Aside from that intangible factor, Mark Hunt’s improved takedown defense has faltered against good wrestlers. Miocic was able to take him down with relative ease, and Lesnar is a far more imposing wrestler than Miocic, albeit with less to offer on the feet. Once on the ground, Lesnar possesses massive ground-and-pound, but is a surprisingly adept grappler all-around. If he gets on top of Hunt, it will be hard to see Hunt getting up unless the round expires. It wouldn’t shock me to see something similar to Lesnar’s bout with Herring, although I don’t think Hunt can take that sort of punishment for 15 minutes at this point. Of course, Hunt could just land an uppercut as Lesnar comes in on his first shot, and everything else will be moot.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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