We are just over the half way point of a lengthy three-week layoff between UFC events. However, this week the company’s matchmakers have been very active finalising some intriguing fights.
The UFC recently announced it will return to Auckland, New Zealand on June 11. With Kiwi fighter Robert Whittaker already booked for a pivotal contest against “Jacare” Souza, fan favourite Mark Hunt will headline the company’s second ever event in the country.
The Super Samoan will face hot heavyweight prospect Derrick Lewis. The man nicknamed ‘The black beast’ called out Hunt after his most recent victory against Travis Browne back in February. This was before Hunt’s recent defeat to Alistair Overeem but Lewis still felt the match up made sense as Hunt is a big name. These two fighters are at opposite ends of the spectrum in the UFC. Lewis is currently riding an impressive six-fight win streak and hoping a victory over veteran Hunt will earn him a future title shot. Meanwhile, Hunt is immersed in a legal battle with the UFC over unfair treatment and unsurprisingly this has soured his relationship with Dana White and Co.
Back to back defeats for Hunt could see his release from the company as punishment for suing them.
The co-main event for Auckland features an interesting middleweight bout between Derek Brunson and Daniel Kelly. Brunson is on another quick turnaround after two consecutive defeats. The Jackson/Winkeljohn gym fighter was on top of the world just as little as six months ago, when he was tearing through competitors accumulating a five-fight win streak.
Last November he faced fellow streaking middleweight Robert Whittaker and through a combination of over-eagerness and sloppiness, his run came to an abrupt halt via first round TKO. Brunson accredited his uncharacteristic performance to seeking the record of five consecutive first round TKO finishes. His follow-up display against Anderson Silva was woeful. The American was timid and showed far too much respect to an aged post prime Silva.
Daniel Kelly is certainly not a well-known figure in MMA but he continues to deliver on the sport’s biggest platform. The four-time Judo Olympian is a cult hero down under and has amassed a four-fight win streak.
Kelly is not the most skilled striker but it is hard to find a fighter who competes with as much heart as this 39-year-old Aussie. After a decision victory over Chris Camozzi last November in Melbourne, Kelly requested a step up in competition. His wish was granted and he was chosen to welcome Rashad Evans to the middleweight division.
Kelly walked Evans down the entire night and put on a gritty performance to edge out the biggest win of career, against a future hall of famer no less. Brunson could face the chop if he were to lose three in a row while Kelly will find himself ranked in the top 10 if he can defy the odds once again. A fascinating fight.
On Wednesday evening the UFC announced two noteworthy fights for Fight Night 112 in Oklahoma City on June 25th. After being absolutely demolished in January by the young lion Yair Rodriguez, UFC hall of famer BJ Penn will surprisingly return to the cage once again to face Dennis Siver in a featherweight bout.
Former welterweight and lightweight champion Penn was widely expected to retire following his dismal display against Rodriguez but perhaps feels he has unfinished business with Siver who he was originally scheduled to fight last year. The man best known for being the stepping stone to Conor McGregor’s featherweight title shot, Siver, has been inactive since the summer of 2015 and is in the twilight of his career to say the least.
The other notable fight on this card is a belter of a middleweight bout between heavy hitters Johnny Hendricks and Tim Boetsch. Former welterweight champion Hendricks is looking to make himself at home in his new division after several highly-publicised weight issues and three successive defeats at 170 pounds. ‘Big Rig’ put on a more familiar performance of his past self in his debut at Middleweight against the extremely dangerous Hector Lombard back in February.
Boetsch is a UFC veteran with over 20 appearances in the Octagon. In his last bout, he was submitted against one of the middleweight’s top contenders, ‘Jacare’ Souza. That was the final fight of his previous deal but ‘The Barbarian’ Boetsch is known for putting on exciting fights which usually end in someone getting knocked out so it is no surprise the company offered him a new contract. This is a fight that can determine whether Hendricks can cut it at 185 pounds as they don’t get more experienced than Boetsch.
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