Mark Hunt went about beating Derrick Lewis tonight (June 10) in New Zealand the way he has gone about beating most men he has faced in a combat sports career spanning over 20 years. Slowly, methodically and with a sudden burst of violence.
In many ways, the Lewis win was a microcosm of Hunt’s fighting life. There were licks to be taken, prey to be caught, but Hunt, in the end, used every ounce of his toughness and determination to get the desired result. He outlasted the younger man. He broke him. Mark Hunt, the 43-year-old ranked one place lower than his in-form opponent, stopped Derrick Lewis in round four.
What made the night even sweeter for Hunt is that it was a performance produced in New Zealand, his home country, and one watched by his family, sat at Octagon-side. Indeed, this picture-perfect feeling almost seemed to tempt Hunt to bring the curtain down in his post-fight interview. “I’ve only got a few more fights left,” he said. “If it ended here tonight, so be it. I’ve had a lot fun. But it looks like it’s still continuing.”
On tonight’s evidence, Hunt, even at 43, still has something to offer a heavyweight division that has long been stagnant, is in desperate need of new blood and, because of this, will no doubt continue throwing up opportunities for its elder statesmen. Make no bones about it: Hunt is definitely one of them. But he is also a man capable of taking every one of the punches and kicks Derrick Lewis has used to finish other heavyweights, a man capable of then spitting back defiance and some of his own. That, in itself, makes him relevant in today’s heavyweight landscape. Dangerous, too.
In truth, the threat of Lewis seemed to diminish as the fight progressed. It started high in round one, as he aimed left kicks at Hunt’s head and right kicks at his shins, but even then Hunt seemed unperturbed by much of what he saw and had to take. With a shrug and a shuffle of his feet, ‘The Super Samoan’ claimed the centre of the Octagon, started his engine, felt it cough and splutter for a while, and then soon hit his groove. It wasn’t particularly fast, nor explosive, but it was steady and consistent and that, we’d soon discover, would win the race.
Often in the early going it seemed like they were simply taking turns. Lewis would throw a single strike, Hunt would take it or block it, and then a few seconds would pass before Hunt had his go. It went like this for a while. Derrick’s turn, now Mark’s turn. But the attacks became more vicious as the fight ticked along and two gas tanks started to empty.
In round two, a well-picked left knee from Lewis landed on Hunt and started a period in which the American was able to pick off his shorter opponent as he followed him around the Octagon. He’d move, measure him, and then unleash either kicks or uppercuts, a punch used whenever Hunt got low and readied his own right hand. This approach served Lewis well until he found himself cracked by a Hunt right, thrown short and compact, and was momentarily put on sea legs. Panic mode on, Lewis scurried away and Hunt looked to follow up with some more. He chased, he harried, he let his hands go. Lewis, looking for a turnaround shot, plucked an uppercut from thin air, which caught Hunt’s attention, and they traded bombs to conclude the round.
The tempo of the fight, thanks to that initial Hunt right hand, had now been cranked up a notch. And that didn’t necessarily suit Derrick Lewis, a man who thrives on a low pace, a six-foot-three heavyweight who likes time to move and think and plot his next attack.
While Lewis’ unorthodoxy relies on time and space, Hunt’s better technique and consistent pressure was more suited to a fight like this. He was better positioned and balanced to exploit the many holes he spotted in Lewis’ defence. He timed his jab well. He landed left hooks around the side. He used all his experience to set things up.
Lewis, meanwhile, was struggling to get much going in round three. A sloppy attack midway through the round brought a shake of the head from the Louisiana-native, and soon enough he was sucking in air with both hands on his hips. Hunt, sensing this, increased the speed of his flat feet and began digging right hands and left hooks to Lewis’ midsection as he looked to escape.
Survival was by now the name of the game for Lewis, who had little left and resorted to launching single shots from out wide in the hope of catching Hunt coming in. Alas, more often than not, the shots fell short or were too long. Hunt, as dogged as he is durable, just kept on coming. He chopped Lewis’ legs with kicks and then an overhand right rocked ‘The Black Beast’. This flashpoint prompted Lewis to try an ill-advised flying knee in response – essentially his last stand – only for the attempt to backfire. It didn’t land. Worse than that, it emptied Lewis completely, thus allowing Hunt to pick up on this signal – Lewis putting his hands on his hips and back-peddling – and close the show with a volley of punches and elbows at 3:51 of the fourth round.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” Hunt, 13-11-1 (1 NC), said afterwards. “This is my hood. I run this place.
“It was a matter of timing. Derrick is a tough guy. I respect him because he doesn’t use steroids. I think we all need to band together to get rid of steroids in our sport and get an even playing field.
“I’ve been fighting here for twenty-five years in two different sports at the top and I appreciate all the support.
“Anybody above me is good. This was a step down for Derrick because he’s number six. But anyone above me, I’ll take.”
The second of the night’s two surprises then followed. The first, of course, was that the fight itself, a meeting of huge punchers and therefore presumably set for a quick conclusion, turned into a long battle of attrition. The second, however, centred on the subject of retirement.
“It’s probably my last fight,” said Lewis, 18-5 (1 NC). “I’m getting married next week, and I don’t like to put my family through this. That will be my last fight.”
“You said probably – or it will be?” asked UFC commentator Brian Stann, looking for clarification.
“Most likely it will be my last fight,” the 32-year-old said.
So there you have it. Mark Hunt, now well into his forties, continues to outlast the rest of them – in every conceivable way.
UFC Fight Night 110 results:
Mark Hunt defeated Derrick Lewis via TKO – Round 4, 3:51
Derek Brunson defeated Daniel Kelly via knockout – Round 1, 1:16
Dan Hooker defeated Ross Pearson via knockout – Round 2, 3:02
Ion Cutelaba defeated Henrique da Silva via knockout – Round 1, 0:22
Ben Nguyen defeated Tim Elliott via submission – Round 1, 0:49
Alexander Volkanovski defeated Mizuto Hirota via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Vinc Pichel defeated Damien Brown via knockout – Round 1, 3:37
Luke Jumeau defeated Dominique Steele via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
John Moraga defeated Ashkan Mokhtarian via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-27, 30-27)
Zak Ottow defeated Kiichi Kunimoto via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
J.J. Aldrich defeated Chanmi Jeon via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)