There are some notable stories getting attention in the wake of last night's UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch, but for K-1 fans, there's only one that matters: the return of KO artist Mark Hunt. Hunt faced Chris Tuchscherer in a prelim fight designed to appeal to the live hometown crowd, and for the first time in a long time, Hunt truly delivered. The K-1 veteran opened up a horrendous cut in round 1 before stopping Tuchscherer with a vicious uppercut KO in the 2nd - and then simply walking away from his opponent's sprawled out body looking like a total badass. The stoppage earned him the award for Knockout of the Night.
The fight was a great redemption for Hunt. The past few years have been very rocky for the New Zealand native. Between MMA and K-1 Hunt came into the fight on a combined 7 fight losing streak that dated all the way back to mid-2006, nearly 5 years ago. Tuchscherer brought in a 1-2 record in the UFC, but both loses came against tough opponents in Gabriel Gonzaga and Brendan Schaub, and many favored him to defeat the fading Hunt here. Hunt managed to keep the fight standing for most of the first round, showing off the heavy hands and solid striking skills that once made him K-1 Grand Prix champion. After a nasty left hook opened up a huge cut over Tuchscherer's eye, the doctors took a look and surprisingly allowed the fight to continue. Tuchscherer came back from the break reenergized, managing to take Hunt down and attempt to secure a kimura. The ground game has been Hunt's kryptonite for some time, with 5 of his last 6 MMA loses coming via some form of arm lock, but this time it was not to be, as Hunt rode out the round. In round two they were back to striking before Hunt landed a tight uppercut perfectly on Tuchscherer's jaw. As his opponent flopped to the mat, Hunt knew the fight was done, walking away casually with his fist raised in victory before the referee even stepped in.
It's hard to say where Hunt goes from here. It was a good win for sure, but I don't think he really fits in the greater UFC HW picture. Perhaps one more fight with his old K-1/PRIDE opponent Mirko CroCop? The two men are 1-1 and a rubber match would be appropriate given each man's current career. I could also see him paired with UFC's other ex-K-1 Heavyweight, Pat Barry.
For now though, those of us who have watched Mark Hunt win the 2001 K-1 Grand Prix, duke it out with Ray Sefo, and go to war with Jerome Le Banner, can add another exciting moment to our memories. Cheers to you champ.