The main event of UFC Fight Night 52 is a five-round heavyweight war between Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson. According to the current betting lines available at 5Dimes Sportsbook, Hunt is a -140 favorite (bet $140 to win $100) while Nelson is a +120 underdog (bet $100 to win $120). MMA linesetter Nick Kalikas opened up Hunt at -140 and Nelson at +100, and the action has been steady in both directions as the betting public is having difficulty picking who wins this fight. This is a tough fight to call but I slightly favor Hunt and believe he is deserving of his status as a slight favorite. Here’s why. Hunt (9-8-1) is one of the top-ranked heavyweights in the UFC. The 40-year-old New Zealander is 4-2-1 overall in the UFC with wins over Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo, Stefan Struve and Chris Tuchscherer and his only losses coming to Junior dos Santos and Sean McCorkle. The draw came against Bigfoot Silva in his last bout, which was the 2013 Fight of the Year. Hunt is a fantastic kickboxer who utilizes all of his limbs to hurt his opponents and knock them out. He has incredible punching power and also nasty elbows, knees, and kicks. His takedown defence is improving, although his wrestling overall is average for the division. His ground game is poor, but also improving. He has good cardio for a big man, and his chin is one of the best in the history of the sport. He’s coming off of a nine-month layoff following hand surgery after breaking his hand in the Bigfoot fight, but he’s returning to a good situation by fighting in Japan, where he was once a kickboxing star. Hunt is getting up there in age but as far as MMA goes, he’s at the peak of his skillset and while Nelson is not an easy out, given Hunt’s diverse striking attack and recent success against some of the top fighters in the division it makes sense he is a slight favorite heading into this bout. Nelson (20-9) won season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter and has since gone on to achieve great popularity in the UFC’s heavyweight division. The 38-year-old American is 7-5 in the UFC with all of his wins coming by way of knockout. He has defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Dave Herman, Brendan Schaub, Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione, Mirko Cro Cop and Stefan Struve, and his losses have only come against the elite of the division in Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier, and Frank Mir. Nelson is a devastating striker with extreme knockout power in his right hand, and that’s been his path to victory ever since he entered the Octagon. With an amazing chin — arguably the best ever seen in the sport — Nelson is able to take a punch to give one back and it makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone in the division. As far as his other skills go, his wrestling is pretty decent overall as he has solid takedown defence, and on the ground he’s a BJJ black belt, although he hasn’t used his ground game since the Cro Cop fight three years ago. If Nelson was smart, he would take Hunt to the ground and try to submit him, but based on the way Nelson fights he’s going to keep this fight standing, and if does stay standing he’ll have a puncher’s chance to win. But he also gets hit a ton, more than anyone else in the UFC maybe, and at some point you have to wonder if his chin is going go. And against Hunt, this could certainly be the fight where it does, especially if his cardio lets him down yet again. Two heavyweight sluggers with incredible knockout power but the chins to withstand punishment equals a sure-fire Fight of the Year candidate. I believe this is going to be a fantastic bout similar to the war between Hunt and Bigfoot and I absolutely cannot wait for it. The fight could really go either way, and Nelson definitely has the capabilities to win in devastating fashion, but I do think that since the fight will likely take place on the feet where I think Hunt has the more varied striking attack and better cardio, I have to favor him to get the victory, although I’m not sure he knocks Nelson out. The fight could very well go five rounds despite both men having tremendous power in their fists, which is why I think the OVER 1.5 rounds total is a better bet than either fighter. That’s at -195 now, but I still think it’s parlayable as I just can’t see a knockout happening in the first 7.5 minutes of the fight considering the chins on both of these fighters. I’m also thinking the fight goes the distance prop at +240 may have some value as well, considering how tough both of these fighters are. Either way, regardless of who wins or what method it comes by, this is going to be an awesome fight and getting up early on a Saturday morning will be well worth it.
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