Draws in MMA are rare, and for that we’ve always been grateful. Generally speaking, there’s very little to be gotten from a stalemate even under extraordinary circumstances. In most cases, a draw leaves an empty box at the door of the future, especially in fights where an outcome determines the promotion’s next steps. Draws send people home in altering states of dissatisfaction. They don’t scratch the itch. They make cousins kiss when for god’s sake all we want is for one of those cousins to be vanquished.
In other words, draws royally suck. Fights promise resolution and anything less feels like a welch.
But Friday night’s main event that went down Saturday afternoon in Brisbane, Australia -- a real time future that all-too-happily scrambled our bearings of time and space and left Pat Barry to contemplate the inner workings of the International Date Line -- could only end one way satisfactorily.
And that was a draw.
Nobody wanted to see Antonio Silva or Mark Hunt lose. Not after (arguably) the greatest heavyweight bout in UFC history, which materialized out of nowhere. Not after they clubbed one another for five table-turning rounds -- Bigfoot with his lunch pails, Hunt with his ham hocks -- and left each other for dead on multiple occasions. Not after both men rose and moved forward and had each other’s blood squeegeed from their animal features between rounds.
To determine a winner in a war of equal heart and determination would have felt like a travesty. Two of the judges, perhaps romantics, scored the final round 10-8 for Hunt, which is curious on a night when 10-8 rounds were so hard to come by (particularly in the one-sided Ryan Bader/Anthony Perosh fight where the scarcity of 10-8 scores played out like an act of defiance). Those scores forced the majority draw, and in some ways, so what -- perhaps it’s best that the scorecards were ripped asunder Down Under.
Did those judges consciously know they were assigning a draw? We'll never know. Judges are supposed to be sterile figures of objectivity that watch five individual fights in a five-round affair, detached and with no tally…but, then again, humans won’t always be able to suppress their humanity. (Who can forget the infamous math blunder in Sydney, when the scorecards were tallied wrong in the fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall?)
And really, this was one of those perfect storms.
Hunt and Silva were training partners who remain friends. They came together because they were asked to. They headlined a card reluctantly because neither had a definitive direction to go. Silva, who has already lost twice to the UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, is now in a heavyweight no man’s land. Hunt, who lost to Junior dos Santos last time out, is like Lazarus from biblical Pride FC. He just keeps astonishing everyone on borrowed time. We don’t know his ceiling; we only know his basement.
That they came out and met each other like men with no future beyond the present made for one hell of a war. That always happens when preservation is the last thing on anybody’s mind. People just don’t last in astonishing states of physical disregard, and when they do it becomes a story of guts and determination that can only be told in such circumstances. That’s when the will becomes communicative, and "the thing that's happening" becomes everybody’s experience.
What’s crazier is that Hunt/Bigfoot is just par for the course in 2013, which is literally spoiling us with such rare storms of the century. When the time comes to vote on what the "fight of the year" is in 2013, there will be so many candidates that assigning one above the other will almost certainly be an injustice. Already there’s Michael Chandler/Eddie Alvarez II, there’s Matt Grice/Dennis Bermudez, there’s Alexander Gustafsson/Jon Jones and Diego Sanchez/Gilbert Melendez and Brian Stann/Wanderlei Silva.
Maybe that, too, ends in a shoulder-shrugging tie.
But that’s not the only novelty. I can’t recall another year where so many fights ended with rematches on everybody’s mind. From Jones-Gustafsson to Johny Hendricks/Georges St-Pierre, so many bouts in 2013 are being played out on a loop. In title situations, it’s one thing.
In this, it’s another.
Maybe it’s best to savor Hunt/Silva as a one-time deal because there’s little they can do to improve what already is. They came together under (perfectly) quiet circumstances, and delivered well beyond anyone’s expectation. The fight ended in a draw, which is about as fitting an outcome as can be had in a world that rarely goes in for poetic justice.
And besides, the premise can't be duplicated. They fought with no tomorrow. For that deed alone, maybe it’s best not to force a tomorrow on them.