For something that's been anticipated for years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship's debut in Russia does seem somewhat underwhelming. Dreams of a Khabib Nurmagomedov title fight or other huge headlining affair were dashed once it was announced this card would be on UFC Fight Pass, and this affair does seem to be in the usual style of the UFC's lower-tier international affairs: throw a whole bunch of local talent on the card, put some veteran heavyweights on top and call it a day. There's still stuff to like, though; Russia's talent pool is vast enough that it was almost impossible for there not to have interesting prospects dotting the undercard and the main event should, at the very least, be oddly entertaining. Still, hopefully this is an appetizer for a much bigger Russian affair to come sooner rather than later.
Let's get to the analysis and picks for UFC Fight Night 136: Hunt vs. Oleynik:
UFC Fight Pass Main Card
Heavyweights Mark Hunt (13-12-1, 1 N/C) vs. Alexey Oleynik (56-11-1) Odds: Hunt (-220), Oleynik (+180)
Heavyweight is an old division in general, but this is still a weird main event tilt between two over-40 veterans. It's easy to forget just how unlikely Hunt's success in mixed martial arts has been, particularly this UFC stint. A former K-1 champion, Hunt's combination of ridiculous punching power and durability made him an easy fan favorite in the days of Pride Fighting Championships, but after some early success, opponents learned that you could take Hunt to the ground and submit him rather easily. With the book being out on Hunt, the UFC had little interest in bringing the New Zealand native onto their roster once they purchased Pride, but after spending about three years unsuccessfully offering to buy Hunt out of his contract, they chose to honor the remaining fights on his deal. When Hunt's UFC career started with Sean McCorkle tapping him out in a little over a minute, it appeared that the “Super Samoan” would be out of the UFC in short order, but he knocked out Chris Tuchscherer in his next fight and just kept winning. Within three years, Hunt was facing Junior dos Santos in a top contender's bout, and while that became a second UFC loss for Hunt, he's been a reliable contender and attraction for the promotion ever since. But in recent years, the cracks have been showing a bit, both inside and outside of the cage. Thanks to a run of fighting four straight opponents who had previously or subsequently failed a drug test, Hunt's currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the UFC, so his relationship with the promotion obviously hasn't been the best. And there have been the obvious consequences of being 44 years-old; while Hunt's got in better shape and remains surprisingly mobile, he doesn't have quite the explosive bursts of power he used to and his legendary chin occasionally shows some cracks. Still, he's got enough veteran savvy and physical gifts that he clearly remains a top-15 heavyweight and presents a solid challenge for fellow veteran Oleynik.
When the now 41 year-old Oleynik was picked up by the UFC as part of their massive 2014 expansion, he was a worthy flier that figured to be little more than an oddity due to his bizarre collection of skills. Oleynik goes by the nickname of “The Boa Constrictor,” which is an apt moniker, as the strongest part of Oleynik's game is his unorthodox variety of chokes; he's not only the only fighter to have a finish via Ezekiel choke in the Octagon, he's managed to do it twice. It really shouldn't work, but it does, and even in his older age, Oleynik has enough on the feet to keep most opponents honest, throwing absolute heat with every str…