2 Dec 2018

Mark Hunt farewells UFC with loss

7:02 pm on 2 December 2018

UFC heavyweight Mark Hunt farewells his UFC career with a unanimous decision loss to American Justin Willis while flyweight Kai Kara France impresses on debut.

New Zealand UFC heavyweight fighter Mark Hunt

New Zealand UFC heavyweight fighter Mark Hunt Photo: © Copyright Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz Photosport Ltd 2017

It wasn't the send off heavyweight Mark Hunt would've hoped for but the respect for the 14 year professional veteran was evident greeted by a traditional Māori haka as a sign of respect.

Despite heated face-offs leading up to the fight, Hunt (13-13-1-1NC) went into the first round with a predatory approach against American Justin Willis (7-1-0) searching for openings early.

With a familiar cut to his right shin by the end of the first round, the 44-year-old entered the second round with intent trying to lure the American to drop his hands by way of low leg kicks to open up his lead left hook.

But the 31-year-old up and comer on a seven-fight winning streak wasn't going to lay down in the biggest fight of his career.

Dancing off his backfoot Willis' accurate left jab started to find a home giving Hunt something to think about and restricting the idea of kicks to the visitors leg.

The patient encounter saw the fight enter the third and final round. Willis came in swinging overhand strikes with both hands while Hunt continued to press forward absorbing a precise head kick from Willis.

The 'Super Samoan' soon started to show signs of fatigue dropping his hands to attract the attack of Willis and bring the fight to him. The American wasn't easily enticed and Hunt's frustration soon started to settle.

As Willis continued to backoff and pivot off forcing Hunt to empty his tank on an injured right leg, he finds success with sporadic single jabs doing enough to get the unanimous decision win.

Hunt leaves the UFC after 8 years of fighting in the heavyweight division having entered the octagon in as many times. Hunt was also the oldest active fighter in the UFC at 44 years old and was the first New Zealand born fighter to be signed to the promotion and rumours are swirling he will sign to rival promotion Bellator.

Earlier in the night New Zealand flyweight Kai Kara France impressed on debut winning via unanimous decision against American Elias Garcia.

France lost the first round after being clipped early dropping to the ground, but despite it a long awaited debut France's nine year experience showed by picking himself up and escaping what France called "a pretty tight triangle" attempt.

The 25-year-old dominated the second and third rounds, successfully avoiding any idea of a fight on the ground and using his unassuming heavy strikes to make his mark on the UFC.

His win also continues an undefeated 2018 winning streak for his Auckland-based gym City Kickboxing. Fellow teammates UFC lightweight Dan Hooker has won twice this year while rising middleweight star Israel Adesanya has notched four from four this year alone.