Mark Hunt and James Te Huna fly the flag at UFC 135

Sam Cupitt Roar Rookie

By Sam Cupitt, Sam Cupitt is a Roar Rookie

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    The focus for many mixed martial arts fans for UFC 135 will of course be the light heavyweight championship bout between Jon Jones and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson but the card also features two of the premiere Australasian fighters.

    In the same way we as Australians have claimed Russel Crowe and Crowded House as our own, we have extended that courtesy to the MMA realm with New Zealand’s Mark Hunt and James Te Huna.

    Hunt and Te Huna will take on Ben Rothwell and Ricardo Romero respectively at UFC 135 in do-or-die match-ups.

    While both are Kiwis who are making their third appearance under the UFC banner on September 25, the similarities pretty much end there.

    The pair undergone very different paths that led them to the promotion.

    Hunt made his debut in the sport after winning the prestigious 2001 K-1 kickboxing Grand Prix in Japan.

    The victory gave Hunt a high profile in Japan and led to him being signed by the premiere MMA organisation, at the time, PRIDE Fighting Championships.

    In his first fight for PRIDE, he was defeated via armbar by Judo gold medallist, Hidehiko Yoshida in the first round.

    He rebounded from the loss to rack up five straight wins, including wins over the highly ranked and respected Wanderlei Silva and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

    His streak would be snapped by losses to Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko. Then, following the shut-down of PRIDE, he would make it five losses in a row when he was defeated in his three bouts in the DREAM organization.

    “I think the lowest moment was every fight I was just losing and I just didn’t know what the hell was going on.” Hunt said in an interview with The Roar.

    “I just couldn’t get it right. I didn’t know what it was. It was just a mental block. It didn’t matter who I fought, I would have just lost anyway.

    “They could have put me in with a wooden chair and I still would have lost. It was just inside my mind and I had to break the cycle.”

    In a strange turn of events however, despite the losing streak, Hunt was picked up by the UFC.

    The UFC’s acquisition of PRIDE meant that they contractually owed fights to Hunt.

    Hunt’s UFC career did not start well as he was submitted in the first round by UFC newcomer, Sean McCorkle at UFC 119.

    He was given another fight and made the most of it as he knocked out Chris Tuchscherer earlier this year at Australia’s UFC 127.

    The win not only snapped his six-fight losing streak but earned him another fight in the UFC. His UFC 135 opponent, Ben Rothwell, is a more highly touted opponent than Tuchscherer but Hunt doesn’t believe it’s a sign of him moving into the heavyweight title picture.

    “I don’t think I’m sitting anywhere at the moment. I think a few more fights, three or four more fights for me to get into the picture at all.

    “I don’t see myself anywhere in the heavyweight division, yet I still feel I’m the best on the planet of course or else I wouldn’t be doing it.”

    While the 37-year old Hunt’s career may be winding down, 29-year old Te Huna’s is still on the rise.

    James Te Huna UFC

    James Te Huna : UFC

    Nevertheless, he faces himself in a precarious position at UFC 135 against Ricardo Romero after suffering his first UFC loss to surging prospect, Alexander Gustaffson at UFC 127.

    “Me and Romero are both coming off losses,” said Te Huna. “So we’re going to be fighting hard to be keeping our spots in the UFC.”

    It’s an unfortunate position for Te Huna to be in as he showed a lot in his UFC debut against Igor Pokrajac at UFC 110, even though the fight did not go according to plan.

    “Against Pokrajac we had a plan to stay on the feet but as soon as I walked into the cage the next thing I remember I woke up on my head.

    “So that game plan went out the window, and I spent the three rounds trying to put him on his back.”

    His ability to adapt to a dire situation with a quality takedown game was something we haven’t come to expect from Australian fighters.

    He also used that area of his game effectively against Gustaffson early on at UFC 127 but he eventually succumbed to the Swede later in the first round.

    That loss was something Te Huna partially attributes to his father having to be checked into hospital four weeks prior to the bout.

    “When I wasn’t at the gym, I was at the hospital so it played on my mind. Then halfway through the fight I didn’t want to be there. It was like I quit and that’s not something I do.”

    Regardless, Te Huna will get a chance to redeem himself at UFC 135 in a bout that he hopes will remain on the feet. If it does we may very well get a reminder of the striking skills that he showcased in the Australian Cage Fighting Championships that paved his way to the UFC.

    Te Huna claimed the light heavyweight grand prix belt in the organisation with three knockout victories over respected names in Anthony Perosh, Priscus Fogagnolo and Antony Rea.

    It’s been a lean time for Australia in the MMA world of late with George Sotiropoulos suffering back-to-back defeats and Kyle Noke going down by painful submission to Ed Herman last month.

    While the hotly promoted Jones vs Rampage title fight will very well take up most of the attention come UFC 135, make sure you spare some time for two of our adopted countrymen.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • September 19th 2011 @ 9:42am
      Mixed Martial Arts said | September 19th 2011 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Waiting for 24th sep to watch UFC 135.

    • September 19th 2011 @ 2:07pm
      Weatherman said | September 19th 2011 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

      Nice one Sam – Mark Hunt has a chin like a rock but submissions seems to be his curse. The guy needs a ground game although if he can do an Ellenberger on Shields he’ll be ok!

      Did you speak with him about that (his lack of ground game) or tip-toe around it?

      Te Huna is a bit different though, hoping he’ll get up.

      What happened to Ben Rothwell anyway? Thought he’d gone off the deep end or something.

    • September 19th 2011 @ 2:23pm
      Hospital said | September 19th 2011 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

      Yeah not a great time for Australians at the moment. George Sots has taken two beatings, while Noke was ok but that weasel Herman had him in all kinds of trouble. I still shudder to think of those submissions sometimes – sorry – I’m still just a little squeamish at times about the intent to hurt but doing ligament damage etc.

      You get that when you’ve had knee ops though!

      Other than that Sam.. Jones or Rampage? Jackson is such a character, and he’s been training and all that jazz, but Jones is a ridiculous freak with levers on him like nothing else. He gets more torque in submissions, can hit you from further away than anyone else and strikes with power. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Jones tapes.

      • September 22nd 2011 @ 12:48am
        S.T. said | September 22nd 2011 @ 12:48am | ! Report

        I think the pressure is getting to Jon Jones with the whole “Spy in Jackson’s Camp” Fiasco,it was reported on another mma website that Jones has been abit edgy going into this fight.If Jackson can get within striking distance of Jones jaw it will be lights out for Jones.Another fight that will be interesting is Matt Hughes Vs Josh Koscheck,my opinion is that this will be Matt Hughes last fight regardless of the outcome;Having said that I see Koscheck winning by ko or tko

    • September 19th 2011 @ 2:25pm
      Johnno said | September 19th 2011 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

      Thing about Rampage is.. he couldn’t put away Matt Hamill. Now, I have more respect for Hamill than anyone, but he was given a beating in his next two fights. Why couldn’t Rampage? The broken hand thing?

    • Roar Pro

      September 20th 2011 @ 11:16am
      Sam Cupitt said | September 20th 2011 @ 11:16am | ! Report

      @Weatherman.

      I spoke to him a bit about his ground game. He says he has been working on it but he’s said that in the past as well. His fight with Rothwell should show us how far he has come because Big Ben is pretty nifty when he gets on top.

      @ Johnno

      Haha, I’m leaning towards Jones myself as he is pretty damn freakish with his takedown game. If he tries to get fancy with Rampage on the feet though he could find himself eating a few counters and then all could go to hell pretty quickly for him. I personally would like to see Rampage knock him out, but I doubt it will happen.

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