A big heavyweight main event featuring a rising star and a local favorite is being targeted for UFC’s return to New Zealand in June.
MMA Junkie is reporting that a fight between Derrick Lewis and Mark Hunt is in the works for the show scheduled for June 11 in Auckland, New Zealand (June 10 in North America).
Lewis is coming off of a second-round knockout of Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night Halifax last month. He has won six in a row and is ranked #6 in the MMATorch.com Heavyweight Rankings that were published just before his win over Browne. Lewis had publicly asked for the fight in recent interviews and called Hunt “one of the toughest guys out there” when speaking to MMA Junkie radio.
Hunt, an Auckland native, is coming off a third-round knockout loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 209 earlier this month. Before that, Hunt lost a unanimous decision to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 that was later overturned to a no contest when Lesnar failed in and out of competition drug tests for clomiphene. He has also filed a lawsuit against UFC and Lesnar that is still ongoing for damages suffered as a result of Lesnar’s drug use. Hunt’s last win was a knockout of Frank Mir in Australia last March.
No other fights for the event have been announced nor has a date for tickets to go on sale, but more details should emerge soon.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: My take on this is that UFC doesn’t like Mark Hunt. They likely see the value he has in selling tickets in New Zealand, so they put him on the show, but they gave him a very tough opponent in Lewis. This fight goes against UFC’s typical booking philosophy of matching up winning fighters against other winners and losers against losers. All of Hunt’s recent wins have been against other aging fighters and his ability to take a punch and defend against takedowns has diminished in his last few performances. It will be another good showcase for Lewis most likely, and he could find himself in title contention as the Lewis-Hunt fight will likely be the first major heavyweight fight after Stipe Miocic fights Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 in May.
MONDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
-Conor McGregor told the Los Angeles Times that a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather is close to being done and that a September date is being targeted. If the fight comes through as planned in September, that would likely mean McGregor will not compete in MMA at all in 2017.
-A Russian media outlet is reporting that Bellator is considering matching Fedor Emelianenko up with either Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Cheick Kongo, or Joey Beltran after the Matt Mitrione fight fell through at the last minute in February. A date in June or July is also being targeted for the fight.
-Dana White told TMZ that embattled former NFL star turned MMA rookie Greg Hardy is not on his radar and should prove himself outside of UFC first.
-Liz Carmouche told FloCombat that she would like UFC to open up a Flyweight Division and would like the opportunity to be its first champion, but also said she would rather stay active at 135 than sit out and wait for a 125-pound division to open up.
-UFC play-by-play announcer John Gooden posted a video to his Twitter account explaining why he frequently apologized after fighters would curse on the air. He said that the Fight Pass broadcast is not on a delay as a typical UFC television broadcast is so there is no time to bleep out the language but that the card does air on television in some markets so he is required to apologize for the language so the broadcast partners don’t face fines.
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S REPORT: SUNDAY NEWS DIGEST 3/19: A night of decisive one-punch finishes at UFC Fight Night topped by Manuwa (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)