By Daniel Richardson
There was no walk-off knockout that has become his calling card but Mark Hunt gave his hometown plenty to cheer about with his TKO win over Derrick Lewis at UFC Fight Night 110.
The Super Samoan has been fighting professionally for more than 20 years, firstly as a kickboxer and now in MMA, but he had never had an MMA bout in his homeland.
Hunt is the stuff of legend to fight fans from New Zealand and he didn't let them down at Spark Arena in Auckland today.
The 43-year-old showed noted patience and timing against the dangerous Derrick Lewis (18-5, 1 NC) as he eventually broke him down to earn the win late in the fourth round.
It was a massive right hand that set it all up and after an array of follow-up punches, referee Marc Goddard stepped in to save Lewis as the crowd exploded.
"I know Derrick Lewis is from the hood but this is my hood," the south Auckland-born Hunt said in the cage after the main event bout.
Hunt (13-11-1, 1 NC) hinted that this fight may have been his last had it not gone his way but he will continue to fight on and has three bouts left on his UFC contract.
"I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm still beating the top guys. I said if I can't start beating these guys then I'll retire."
Lewis, who said in the cage after the fight that he was troubled by a back injury and would likely retire, was ranked No 6 in the UFC's media-generated rankings, compared to Hunt's seven.
Hunt's next bout will likely be against a top-ranked opponent and there's very few names among the sport's elite that he hasn't met before.
He'd love another shot at Junior dos Santos (18-5) after the Brazilian knocked him out at UFC 160 in May 2013 and Hunt suggested a fight card in Japan later this year would be the ideal time.
Whether that comes to fruition is unclear but Hunt can always look back fondly on his UFC homecoming where a vocal crowd of 8,649 greeted him.
"It was a great feeling to walk out," he said. "It's kind of a surreal feeling. Better than drugs; way better."
Hunt's win capped a banner day for New Zealand MMA as Kiwi fighters Dan Hooker (14-7) and Luke Jumeau (12-3) both registered notable victories.
Lightweight Hooker delivered a highlight reel knockout of Ross Pearson (19-14, 1 NC) with a vicious knee in the second frame, while welterweight Jumeau overcame a slow first round to win a unanimous decision (29-28 on all scorecards) against Dominique Steele (14-9).
Hunt and Lewis's brawl was awarded 'Fight of the Night' honours, which netted both men US $50,000 (NZD $69,325), while Hooker also won a 'Performance of the Night' bonus for the same amount.
The Hangman's move to lightweight, after taking his first six UFC bouts at featherweight, proved the right decision.
"Being up at lightweight I've got a lot more gas in the tank. It was getting halfway through the second round and I wasn't tired at all."
Hooker said he would spend some time at his parents' farm to rest this week, while he will likely be seen again on a fight card in Australia later this year.
As for Hamilton's Jumeau, this was the start of his UFC career.
"I won't lie, I definitely felt the jitters," he said. "I had a little adrenaline dump. Nothing surprised me though, it was exactly what I expected. When you're a striker and you feel those connections, it almost feels like a video game and you want to keep building on your combos."