Junior dos Santos Hunts bigger UFC game
Junior dos Santos' fists may be flying towards Kiwi UFC slugger Mark Hunt in Las Vegas today, but if you were to say the Brazilian's mind is more on Cain Velasquez - you'd probably be right.
Make no mistake: dos Santos, who matches with Hunt in UFC 160 at the famed MGM Grand hotel, knows how important victory over Hunt is.
The 28-year-old former world heavyweight champion needs a strong showing against the hard-hitting Kiwi to demonstrate he is ready for a rematch with Velasquez, who took his title in Las Vegas last December.
Dos Santos respects Hunt hugely. He has been a fan of the New Zealander's style since watching him as the K-1 world champion a decade ago, and still describes him as one of the best heavyweights in world MMA.
"I want to fight with the best," dos Santos told Sunday News from Las Vegas last week. "I look at Mark Hunt right now - and he is definitely one of them.
"I'm glad to be fighting against him. I respect him a lot. I used to watch his fights in K-1. I've always liked his style of fighting.
"I like how tough he is. He's a very abrasive fighter. I have studied him a lot, watching his fights in UFC and before."
He says all the right things about Hunt - but you can tell that, for dos Santos, this fight is a step towards getting another shot at Velasquez.
Following his last fight, dos Santos admitted his training regime needed fixing. The Brazilian peaked too early for the Velasquez clash, meaning he looked overdone when he finally got in the octagon.
Since then, the approach to fighting has changed massively. Science, and keeping his body completely in tune, is now a massive part of his approach - something that should worry Hunt, who himself is in tip-top shape after a two-month training camp in South Auckland.
"I learnt a lot from that fight," he said. "Now I'm taking care of my career better than I did before. Now I have a physiologist with me all the time, checking my blood and everything."
The power of Hunt, and ability to take massive hits, will be something dos Santos will be aware of heading into the fight today. Look for the Brazilian to make use of his own speed and superior ground game to seek a much-favoured victory.
Despite all the admiration for Hunt, mention the name Velasquez to dos Santos, and you'll get the most animated replies from the big Brazilian.
"I want that rematch so bad, man," he said. "We have to fight again, and I think we will fight a lot of times. Our first fight [in 2011] was very fast, and in our second fight, I wasn't really there.
"We have to get this third fight. Cain Velasquez is an impressive fighter, but I know I can beat him. I will do that, when I get the chance."