LAS VEGAS -- Through all of the craziness that ended up being UFC 200 fight week, it is strangely fitting that the biggest constant has been the one thing that sounded most improbable just five weeks ago. Yes folks, Brock Lesnar, the beast incarnate, is slated to return to the Octagon on Saturday night. USADA is not swooping in at the eleventh hour. This is actually happening. This is not a drill.
I think it is safe to say no one saw this coming -- least of all Mark Hunt, the 42-year-old semi-truck of a man who excels at the most casual sort of ultra-violence. What we're left with now is a UFC 200 co-main event that, in many ways, embodies the age-old question: what happens on July 9th when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? I genuinely don't know, and that's what's so fun about all of this.
But a funny thing happened when we asked a few of the stars of UFC 200 what they thought of the madness. Will Lesnar's prodigious wrestling abilities carry the day? Or is the big man setting himself up for one of the most legendary walk-off knockouts in mixed martial arts history? The answer was nearly unanimous.
Diego Sanchez: I am super pumped about this fight. I've always been a fan of Brock Lesnar. I think he's just an amazing athlete. But the fighter in him does have a flaw where he doesn't like to get hit, I think. When he gets hit he has that kind of [recoiling reaction]. So I don't know, man. This fight is an exciting fight for me to watch as a fan. I love Mark Hunt, he's one of my favorites. Then on top of that he's 42 years old. Forty-two years old! That's awesome. That's what you call vitality. The dude, look at him, man. He's embracing his man strength.
He's been through it all. He's been through a lot of wars, he's been through a lot of tough fights, but he's still around and he's still performing. The guy just has incredible skill with his kickboxing and everything that he does, so I'm excited for this fight. I honestly think Brock being away from the cage for so long and Mark finding his stride as a fighter, I'm leaning towards Mark pretty heavily in this fight. Mark hasn't been looking 42 in his fights. I don't think that Brock's going to be able to get it done.
Thiago Santos: I believe in Mark Hunt. He's got more weapons.
Joe Lauzon: I think the fight is decided in the first 90 seconds. I think Mark Hunt either avoids some takedowns and lands a really, really big shot and knocks out Lesnar, or Brock takes him down right away and I don't think Mark has an easy time getting up. So I think it's decided and dictated in the first 90 seconds.
I was leaning heavily towards thinking that Mark Hunt is going to win. I feel like he's just, he's so big. Lesnar is obviously a better athlete, a bigger athlete, but they're both really, really big. It's not like Mark Hunt is small. But then Firas (Zahabi) was like, 100-percent, there's no way that Mark Hunt knocks him out in the first round. So that makes me think, aaahhh, I don't know, maybe he knows something I don't know! But I feel like Mark Hunt gets it done in the first round. Probably early in the first round.
Jim Miller: If I were going to bet on it, I would probably have to go with Brock. Only because he's a big, imposing man. I mean, obviously Hunt can knock him out, and I'm a huge fan of Mark. I think he just has to connect. He has to establish his big punches and kind of make Brock hesitant about blast doubling him and driving him against the cage and potentially blowing a fence panel out. It's going to be a tough fight, but I don't know what Brock has been doing all of this time. Has he been training as hard as he was when he was just a fighter? I don't know. But it'll be a fun fight to watch, for sure, and I'm leaning towards Brock just because once he gets it to the ground, I don't think Mark is going to have anything for him. And I think he probably will unless Mark gets him with a nice big uppercut and then an overhand.
T.J. Dillashaw: There's only two ways it can go down. If it goes to a decision, I think that Lesnar might be able to take him down and his power and lay on him a little bit. But I'm thinking that Mark Hunt is going to give him a taste of that power, man. That guy is scary with his walk-off knockouts. The guy is scary, man, and he's got good timing. I wouldn't say Brock Lesnar can take a punch that well. He kind of cowers. Once he starts getting hit, he cowers down, and I think that's going to be the biggest factor in this fight is that he's not comfortable getting hit. He's a big, powerful, athletic guy and scary looking. But when the going gets tough, I think he's going to crumble. I think it finishes in the first two rounds.
Cat Zingano: Oh man, I just feel like those big guys are like dancing bears, like it'll be this giant slugfest. One catches one and it's over. I don't see it being a ground battle. I don't feel like they're going to spend much time doing that ground aspect. I feel like it's going to be big throws and big blows. Whichever one gets clipped first is going down.
Enrique Marin: I think Mark Hunt is going to win. He just has this incredible strength in his strikes.
Johny Hendricks: Mark Hunt, he's got to throw uppercuts, knees. He's got to do everything he can to keep Brock from dipping low. But Mark Hunt also has to look out for that straight right hand. We know Brock doesn't like getting hit, right? We've seen it in his last three fights. So, we know that if he gets him on the ground, it's going to be bad for Mark Hunt. Mark Hunt does have some good takedown defense, but he's never been grabbed by a man like this, I guarantee you that. So, is that going to be a factor?
If I'm Brock, I know that I should be hitting him with my right hand, making sure that I get to him. I've got to grab him, I've got to grab him. Get him to the ground, wear him out, land some punches, keep him on the ground. So, with that being said, Mark Hunt needs to go back to uppercuts, knees. Anytime you think he's going to try to go low, throw one. Okay, you missed, but guess what? In his mind, he's sitting here saying, ‘crap, that could've landed if I really committed to this. He's got my timing. He's got my reactions. I don't want to do that.' Turn it into a stand-up battle. If I'm Mark Hunt, that's the way I look at it. If he goes out there and he can keep things in his face where he doesn't want to change levels, it's going to be Mark Hunt's fight.
Raphael Assuncao: Brock is a wrestler and Hunt is a striker, so that's how it's going to play out. I think at the end of the day, they're going to go at it standing.
Junior Assuncao: Man, personally I think that's a tough comeback fight for Brock Lesnar. I mean, that just shows how tough he is, just to take that match-up. I wonder how they closed that deal. I'd just be curious to know. Part of me wants to say Mark Hunt wins, but man, I'd like to see Brock Lesnar win. But I think Mark Hunt is going to win. He should TKO him. TKO or KO. I can't see it differently, just based on what's on paper.
Julianna Pena: That guy is huge, Brock Lesnar. I haven't even seen him, I was just watching all of the Embeddeds and stuff like that and I'm just like, oh man, he's huge. I like Brock Lesnar though, because he's very entertaining and I think that he gets that from his WWE days. He knows how to talk and I really like that about him. If he can get it down and to the ground, I would assume he'd try to lay on Mark. But I think that Mark's going to take it. I like Mark and I think that he's a true fighter in and out of the cage, and I really am pulling for him.
Takanori Gomi: It's going to be blast. That's a big fight, but I'm rooting for Mark Hunt. I think he'll win.
Kelvin Gastelum: Man, that's a great fight. I like both fighters a lot. I love Mark Hunt and I loved Brock Lesnar when Brock was with the UFC. I loved the Brock Lesnar era. But he's been out, man. He hasn't been training like Mark Hunt. You know, Mark Hunt has already had the interim title shot and he's been in big fights. He's been very active and has looked very good. So I'm going to go ahead and say Mark Hunt. He's going to knock him out, man, and Brock has been known to be kind of chinny. So we'll see when Mark Hunt puts his fist on his chin.