FN65 Matchup Analysis: Miocic-Hunt
UFC Fight Night 65
May 10th, 2015
Heavyweight Matchup: Mark Hunt vs Stipe Miocic
In the UFC’s first trip to Australia’s best wine region, Heavyweights are taking over the main event as each competitor hopes to rebound from a loss to stay within striking distance of a title shot. Stipe Miocic recently fell short in a five-round Fight of the Night performance against former champion Junior dos Santos that still earned Miocic plenty of respect even in defeat. In fact, Miocic became just the second man behind current champion Cain Velasquez to ever survive a full five rounds in the Octagon with the savvy power striker JDS. Meanwhile, Mark Hunt also turned in a gutsy performance of his own in his short-notice interim title shot against Fabricio Werdum. Despite long odds, Hunt actually scored an early knockdown and won the first round before succumbing to a brutal knee later in the fight.
Despite a heroic career comeback in the UFC, the matchmakers haven’t done the local hero, #5 ranked Heavyweight Mark Hunt any favors. He’ll be the underdog against #4 ranked Stipe Miocic, despite the heavy support Hunt will receive from the local fans on fight night. Miocic’s line has risen significantly to a -240 favorite over Hunt, the underdog at +200. Let’s see how they stack up on paper.
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Tale of Tape Matchup:
The traditional tale of the tape leans heavily towards Miocic, who will enjoy a nine-year Youth Advantage and a six-inch Reach Advantage over Hunt. Hunt is one of the oldest fighters on the UFC roster, but in “fight years” he’s also accumulated 43 professional kickboxing bouts on top of his knockout-laden MMA career.
Miocic on the other hand, is a relatively fresh-faced former wrestler with just 14 MMA fights to date. All these factors give a big advantage to Miocic in this Heavyweight matchup, supporting him as the more durable man who can also leverage his size to his advantage.
The striking matchup here is tricky. On pedigree alone, most will credit Hunt’s kickboxing experience as giving him a technical edge against the much less vetted Miocic. And a glance at the metrics would support that. But upon closer inspection, the offensive stats are not far off from each other. Hunt and Miocic have very similar striking accuracy, and while Hunt is more powerful and has outworked opponents, Miocic operates at a faster pace and will have a significant range advantage.
Defensively, the deck is stacked in Miocic’s favor. Punch for punch, Hunt tends to eat a lot of strikes compared to the more elusive Miocic, and Hunt has now suffered four knockdowns in his UFC-only fights, at a rate that is the worst on the entire fight card by far. So going toe-to-toe in the long run ultimately favors Miocic, with one big caveat: Heavyweight power. Hunt has felled some of the best beards around (most recently the one attached to Roy Nelson), and only needs one clean shot at the chin of Miocic to end the fight prematurely.
The best test Miocic had to prepare for this matchup was his five-rounder with dos Santos. The fact that he took plenty of licks and kept coming means he’s learned to better absorb punches than when he faced the equally rangy striker Stefan Struve much earlier in his career, Miocic’s only loss by TKO. Should Miocic weather Hunt’s bombs early on, he should be able to out-box Hunt on the feet to an increasing degree as the fight wears on, the same way he did against Roy Nelson.
The grappling matchup will be one-sided, and it will be interesting to see if and when it gets implemented. Mark Hunt is certainly not a grappler, and Miocic has attempted three times as many takedowns to date. But Hunt is also no stranger to opponents not wanting to stand with him, so his takedown defense is frequently tested and has held up well. To date, Hunt has defended 85% of opponent takedown attempts, an impressive rate, perhaps buoyed by his low center of gravity. Whatever the reason, plenty of fighters have tried to turn their fights into a grappling match, with mixed results. Hunt has certainly been tapped in the past, but when he kept the fight standing has fared quite well.
Miocic’s NCAA Division 1 wrestling experience is not on par with that of Cain Velasquez, but still gives him an edge on the mat, and a path to wearing Hunt down early on. While Miocic’s takedown success rate is below average, he has still gotten the better of opponents for the vast majority of his time on the ground. Overall, the grappling edge definitely leans towards Miocic, but not necessarily enough to support a finish there. Miocic has yet to attempt a submission in the UFC, and Hunt has been continuously improving his defensive grappling, which saved him early on in his comeback win against Stefan Struve.
Reed’s Pick: The Over (Miocic to win)
Reed’s Recommended Play:
The current price of -240 for Miocic has risen substantially from the opening of -160, pushing him closer to parlay material. The numbers do favor him for a win, but the volatility of the Heavyweight division (and of Mark Hunt) make it a risky play. Only consider smaller play on Miocic in combination with a safer favorite, and if the price continues to rise, back off altogether or look for a Hunt TKO prop, as that’s his best chance to win.
The Over of 1.5 rounds is currently -175, the Under at +150. That’s a low limit, but so far the market is supporting the Over as the more likely outcome. The fight could definitely see a finish, but we’ll agree with the Over here as the safer play, as Miocic should weather the early storm but also require more than a round to accumulate enough damage for a finish. At the current price, the Over is more affordable than Miocic straight up, and also hedges against Hunt landed a bomb later on. The only prop to consider here is Hunt by TKO, and waiting until the line for Miocic has maxed out is the best time to play it. Miocic on the other hand could grind out a decision, or even get a late TKO, but the numbers don’t lean heavily enough for a specific play.
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