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Coming off back-to-back knockouts, Mark Hunt wants ‘top-five' opponent next

Matt Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Hunt is 41 years young and still going strong. The "Super Samoan" proved once again why he is the walk-off king Saturday at UFC Fight Night 85, downing Frank Mir with a super missile of a right hand before casually strolling away with nary a glance back to see if Mir was still conscious.

Now, with back-to-back first-round knockouts under his belt, Hunt is ready to scale back into the upper echelon of the UFC heavyweight ranks. And as long as his next opponent is ranked atop the division, Hunt isn't going to discriminate.

"Any of them is fine," Hunt said Monday on The MMA Hour. "Any of the top-five guys would be fine."

With all eight UFC heavyweights ranked above him currently booked, Hunt may be forced to wait if his hope is too land a top-level opponent.

The good news, though, is that after a seemingly endless gridlock at the top, the UFC heavyweight division is ready to burst with matchmaking potential once UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum puts his belt on the line against Stipe Miocic on May 14.

By that time, two pivotal contender bouts will be settled, as Ben Rothwell and Junior dos Santos are slated to meet April 10 in Croatia, while Alistair Overeem and Andrei Arlovski are expected to collide one month later in the Netherlands. The leftover winners and losers of those fights would provide plenty of options for Hunt to score a big-time match-up at UFC 200.

Such an outcome would be just fine with Hunt, although he is also a willing dance partner in case anything comes up in the meantime.

"If someone pulls out, I'd rather fight sooner," Hunt said. "So if someone pulls out, I'm your man. Give me a call."

In many ways, Hunt (12-10-1) continues to be one of the best stories in all of combat sports.

The former K-1 standout infamously turned down a contract buyout from the UFC following the dissolution of Pride FC. After his first UFC appearance -- a 63-second loss to Sean McCorkle -- Hunt was considered to be all but done, a relic of a bygone era with a paltry 5-7 record in MMA.

Since then, though, Hunt has pieced everything together to go on a 7-3-1 run and experience a late-career revival at an age when most fighters can only dream of competing. Included in that run is a win over Rothwell, brutal knockouts of Mir, Roy Nelson, and Stefan Struve, plus an all-time great fight against Antonio Silva which ended in a draw.

In fact, Hunt's only three losses during that span came against Werdum, Miocic, and dos Santos -- three of the top-six heavyweights in the world -- and Hunt has never been shy about the fact that he is undefeated in rematches throughout his pugilistic career.

"I want my rematch with those guys," Hunt said. "That fight with Stipe taught me a big lesson there, never to be so much over weight before the fight. It was a problem. So I won't be doing that again."

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