The photo which appeared on the UFC Instagram account which received more than 17,000 ‘likes’. Photo: UFC Soa Palelei of Australia knocks out Pat Barry of the USA in their UFC Brisbane bout at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre on December 7, 2013. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

One day ago, the UFC released a photo on their official Instagram account of Perth Mixed Martial Arts fighter Soa “The Hulk” Palelei, advertising not just his fight but the debut of the UFC in New Zealand this Saturday night.

The photo received more than 17,000 likes.

It points to one thing – Palelei may not have entered his second UFC stint with any fanfare, but he’s rapidly gaining a following in the heavyweight division thanks to knockouts of Nikita Krylov, Pat Barry and Ruan Potts.

The UFC is acutely aware that Heavyweight is a shallow division, and in a developing market like Australia and New Zealand, they need marketable stars.

Mark Hunt is undoubtedly the most popular fighter in the region, but his battle with Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in Brisbane in December left the popular heavyweight with a badly broken hand.

The UFC needed a star, a fighter on the up, to co-headline their first event in New Zealand.

Enter The Hulk.

In what is an unbelievably quick turnaround, Palelei has gone from a being a division filler to a man many people believe has the talent – and the sheer, undeniable power – to seriously challenge many of the fighters in the top 10.

Opponents, by and large, know what Palelei wants to do. They know that if they can stuff his takedown, the fight could turn in their favour. Knowing what to do is one thing – doing it is harder when the 193-centimetre, 120-kilogram Hulk is bearing down on you.

The latest man tasked with stopping Palelei from doing what he does best is Jared Roscholt, a man with serious wrestling pedigree.

Rosholt is a former three-time National Collegiate Athletic Association all-American wrestler with a record of 125-27 and an MMA record of 10-1, with two wins by decision in the UFC.

He is possibly the second best wrestler Palelei has faced, behind light heavyweight title-contender and former captain of the US Olympic Wrestling team, Daniel Cormier, the last man to beat The Hulk.

Palelei isn’t concerned. He’s just excited to be the co-main event in the world’s largest MMA promotion.

“How good is that, hey,” he says of his debut as headliner.

“From Perth, Western Australia, the co-main event, it’s great.

“I mean I was born in Newcastle, I grew up in Perth and I’ve lived here for a long time but I have a lot of family in New Zealand…a lot of people wanting tickets – I’ve had to turn off my phone!”

Palelei is familiar with Roscholt’s style of fighting, and he believes he has the ability to win the fight and silence doubters who claim the 14th ranked heavyweight in the world has made it this far through sheer luck.

“I’ve won 11 straight fights, you have to wonder, is that luck?” he asks.

“I’m blessed with the opportunities I’m getting and this will be a tough fight.

“He’s one of these guys, they’re called blockers, they grind, all they do is grind, try and wear you out. “I’ve got a good wrestling background, jiu jitsu… if it ends up on the ground it doesn’t bother me.

“Standing up, nobody has really seen my stand-up power, so we’ll see what happens.

“I think there will be some fireworks and I don’t think it will go past the first round. Either he will knock me out or I’ll knock him out.”

UFC New Zealand will also see Perth welterweight Chris Indich fight for survival after a less-than impressive debut in the UFC.

Manhandled by fellow Australian Richard Walsh, Indich will take on another Aussie fighter, Vik Grujic, as he fights to keep his UFC contract.

In the main event, former light heavyweight James Te Huna will make his middleweight debut against veteran Nate Marquardt.

UFC Fight Night New Zealand takes place at Vector Arena on Saturday night, with preliminary fights and the main card showing on Fuel TV.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Victoria will be battered by gale force winds on Friday, with a severe weather warning being issued for most of the state.

Melburnians will face winds of 40km/h on their way to work and can expect conditions to deteriorate through the day, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.

“It will be windy all day but the strongest will come in the evening, with winds of 90 to 100km/h,” senior forecaster Phil King said.

“We’re starting to get winds of around 85km/h around the Grampians and around Melbourne in the north and about 90km/h or higher in the alpine ranges.”

Mr King said the bureau had forecast a top of 17 degrees for Melbourne on Friday, but it would feel more like 10 degrees because of wind chill.

He said the run of blustery days from the start of the week was a once-a-season event.

“It’s an incredible period; we started with strong winds on Monday and then we had that severe burst on Tuesday … there’s just been no let-up,” Mr King said.

Miserable weather is expected to continue in Melbourne through the weekend, with winds, scattered showers and possible hail forecast for Saturday.

There will be showers, possible hail and a chance of thunderstorms on Sunday.

Mr King said 30 to 50 centimetres of snow was expected to fall in Victoria’s alpine regions on Sunday.

A severe weather warning for damaging winds has been issued for the north-east, south-west, central, west, south and East Gippsland forecast districts.

The State Emergency Service has advised Victorians to move vehicles away from trees, secure loose items around their homes and to keep clear of fallen power lines.

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The large forecourt of the Suncorp building, on the coner of Collins and William streets. Photo: Ken IrwinTwo years after it was closed to the public amid fears its marble cladding would fall on pedestrians, one of Collins Street’s best-known office towers is to be knocked down.

But a city heritage group says it is a pity the building is to be lost, and that Melburnians would be wise to put greater value on such modernist buildings.

Melbourne City Council has given Cbus Property a demolition permit for the former Suncorp building it owns on the corner of Collins and William streets.

The 27-level office tower was built by National Mutual in 1965 on the site of the former Western Market, which had operated there for more than a century.

In January 2012, the building’s major tenant was Suncorp. They and other businesses were forced to vacate following the collapse of parts of the marble facade into the building’s forecourt, and the tower and a large open square that fronts Collins Street has been fenced off ever since.

An existing planning permit, obtained in 2006 but valid until next year, would allow the construction of a new tower on top of the plaza.

Lord mayor Robert Doyle said building a new tower right up to Collins Street “would be a disaster”.

“I would not be happy unless we have that plaza style in front of the new building,” he said.

A Cbus Property spokesman said the company intended to start demolition on the office tower as early as July.

The company has been working with architects Woods Bagot and US firm SHoP Architects on a plan for the site.

Melbourne City Council’s planning chairman Ken Ong in February said the building’s heritage significance was outweighed by its current state. “It’s like a war zone when you walk around it,” he said.

But a heritage group has questioned the decision to knock the building down, saying its plaza in particular is a key reminder of the period in which the development was built.

??????It’s one of the few 1960s plaza-style developments in Melbourne, and this was an important planning trend in the 1960s – it was unique to that decade,” said Tristan Davies from Melbourne Heritage Action.

He said the evidence wasn’t conclusive that the building had to be demolished, just that its facade needed replacing.

??????It’s been 10 or 20 years that people have been trying to do things on that site,” he said, and the facade collapse had been used as an excuse to knock it down.

Last year, the tower was among a handful of post-war CBD buildings that Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected for heritage protection.

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DEFENDER: Dylan Sunderland at the start of Saturday’s Keegan Downes Memorial Sundowner Cycle Race. He was defending his 2013 first place position.

DYLAN Sunderland might have cycling in his genes, but he doesn’t rest on his laurels when it comes to competition. For Sunderland, it’s all about the hunger to win.

At only 18, he was defending a first place position from last year. Sunderland came third with the second fastest time clocked in the 103km Keegan Downes Memorial Sundowner Cycle Race from Coonabarabran to Gunnedah last Saturday.

Older rider Matt Hoy from Coffs Harbour scooped the top spot on the podium in the handicapped race. Penrith’s Peter Milostic came in second five seconds later recording the fastest race time, and Sunderland right beside him.

The Keegan is an open race with a ‘go hard’ approach; not so much strategy as strength and speed. The day clocked an average race pace of 46kph. In a hard race atmosphere against 165 other riders, Sunderland said he might have got first but was “(boxed in) in the sprint”.

The under-19s National Titles in Canberra await Sunderland over the July 4-6 weekend with time trials on Friday, a 120km road race on Saturday and criterium on Sunday.

He said there would be quality riders at the Titles with an atmosphere of rivalry among the competitors. He’s kept his eye on a few to beat.

“There’s several, probably the top ten in Australia in the moment. I’ve raced against them a couple times this year, raced against them at Tasmania.”

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Residents of Stawell, Ararat and the surrounding area are invited to join backpackers who are visiting the region to plant 2,500 seedlings at Pomonal tomorrow.

Renee shows her excitement as she prepares for Plantout.

Project Platypus has the support of Eco Grampians Youth Hostel to promote Plantout to national and international backpackers visiting the region. They have been invited to get involved, giving them an opportunity for an alternative experience while being able to give something back to the local environment.

All volunteers are offered free accommodation with a free meal provided at the hostel after planting.

Plantout begins at 1pm and finishes at 5pm tomorrow. Participants who need transport are required to meet at the Eco Grampians YHA on the corner of Grampians and Buckler Roads, Halls Gap at 12.30pm where a bus will take them to the site at Pomonal and return. Afternoon tea will be provided by the Jallukar Landcare Group.

This year’s Plantout events held each weekend in July contribute to the longer term vision of the Grampians to Pyrenees Biolink, which has been funded through the Australian Government. The Grampians to Pyrenees Biolink provides habitat through a combination of stepping stones and wildlife corridors enabling ecological function to be maintained through a network of farmland and public conservation reserves.

Come along and support the efforts of Project Platypus Upper Wimmera Landcare and take part in this weekend’s Plantout or any of the other plantouts in July. Please register at the Project Platypus website or contact 5358 4410.

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