Fortunes changed for five at UFC Fight Night 33

Bradley Kanaris

Mark Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva put on one of the best heavyweight fights of all-time. A look at where it stands on the great heavyweight fight list, and what is next for both fighters.

In the wake of Saturday's (well, Friday in North America) Mark Hunt vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva fight and multiple viewings, there are a lot of thoughts in looking back.

Hunt (9-8-1) and Silva (18-5-1) put on a must-see performance. But this has been a year loaded with classics, from Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson, Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez, Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice and even Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks. In February, after the Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche fight, I figured with the historical implications and excitement of that fight, it would be a fight of the year candidate and even possible winner. Today, I wouldn't even consider it for top five.

As Dana White likes to say, Hunt vs. Silva is "in the mix," when it comes to the fight of the year award.

In looking back at the best heavyweight fights in UFC history, the one I always favored was the first Randy Couture vs. Pedro Rizzo fight on May 4, 2001. It was a heavyweight title fight, that like with Hunt vs. Silva, went back-and-forth and was scarily close to a draw. Each man won two rounds solidly, so the victory came down to a swing round, and Couture got it. Nobody clearly won that night. Somebody was lucky. But a rematch took place and Couture left no doubt the second time around.

This fight didn't have the "importance" of a title fight, but it had more human drama than all but a few fights in company history. Couture vs. Rizzo saw rounds where one guy steamrolled the other, and after surviving, the other came back. Hunt vs. Silva saw back-and-forth action in every round, with much harder hitting and every bit as strong survival instincts.

In the pantheon of major promotion heavyweight fights, this ranks right up there with Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (Pride Fighting Championships, June 23, 2002, Saitama Super Arena) as the best. That fight was more insane. This fight, going 25 minutes of closely-contested action, had far more human drama than six minutes where, as crazy as everything was, it was pretty clear Frye was going to win and Takayama was a huge and rapidly swelling punching bag.

You want to call it the best heavyweight fight in UFC history? I'm with you. Best of all-time? Not quite as sure, but it's nothing I'd argue.

With the exception of the second Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard fight, this about the only high-profile draw decision that didn't come with a multitude of public outrage and arguments. And even Edgar vs. Maynard had people strongly arguing both sides.

I think why people were satisfied with a draw had a number of reasons. One is, the fight was close. Another is no championship was at stake, nor even a championship shot. It wasn't even a fight with any kind of title implications as things will stand for a long time. The people who tuned in to see the fight were expecting a brawl. There wasn't as much emotional interest in who won as much as, figuring with each man's style, that it would be hard hitting, and probably end quickly and explosively.

Instead, people got something the same in some ways, very different in others, but far more in every way, than they expected. When it was over, it wasn't about rooting for someone, as much as rooting for both men. Each survived more than would put away five normal fighters. By round five, the goal had switched from wanting to see that impressive knockout to wanting to see both men there at the end. People got that. At that point, they probably didn't want to see either man lose after the performance each put on.

It was a rare fight where a draw was the most satisfying conclusion. Even if either man had won, the decision in the fight would have been far less important than the memories of the fight, which will likely be etched in people's minds for decades.

That said, with the benefit of more viewings, something judges don't have, and also looking at the judges scorecards themselves, there are no arguments on a few points.

Silva won rounds one and four. Hunt won rounds three and five. So we come down to the pesky round two. I felt Silva won it, but it was not so decisive that Judge Charlie Keech, the lone judge going the other way, made a bad call. Hunt had the best punch, but Silva had him in more trouble late with the low kicks that left Hunt limping. It's still amazing that Hunt's leg looked almost shot, and he went three more rounds.

The 10-8 rounds are more an argumentative point. I thought round three for Hunt and four for Silva could have gone 10-8. I'm not 100 percent sure round four should be 10-8, but would score it that way, and it was the most decisive round of the fight.

Round five, which got 10-8 scores from judges Barry Foley and Ron Papaannou, is what led to the draw decision. In that round, Silva got far more offense in than in any 10-8 rounds against someone that I can recall. It was only the third most decisive of the fight. And no judges gave either round three or four a 10-8.

The two men who at one point in their careers were training partners, and embraced at the start of round five. The fight's key moment came in the final stanza.

Under normal circumstances, one would say Silva was seconds from being done when referee Steve Perceval stopped action to check on Silva's cuts, thus giving the big Brazilian a reprieve. Perceval should have waited for Silva to at least survive until the end of the barrage of Hunt blows, or fight his way out of trouble before stopping action to check on a cut that didn't look like it should end the fight.

When action resumed, Silva came back and Hunt was never able to get him in that vulnerable a position the rest of the round.

Under normal circumstances, it looked like Perceval's call saved Silva from almost certain defeat. Given how many times Silva came back in this fight, these weren't normal circumstances.

As far as what comes next for both men, a rematch is in order. For one, neither is anywhere near getting a shot at heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. And neither has a future opponent that would garner as much interest.
But this is one situation where UFC officials' hands are somewhat cuffed compared to a usual immediate rematch. While such a bout could make for a great No. 2 fight on a pay-per-view show, after a five-round war that went the distance, and where a major part of the story was that it went five, a rematch shouldn't be contested over three rounds.

That leaves them in a position where they have to be the main event. Historically, rematches of exciting fights among non-contenders do not kill it as far as pay-per-view goes. In a desperate situation, a pay-per-view where no big stars or champions are available, perhaps this could fill a slot. But it's best served for television.

Here's a look at how Fortunes Changes for Five on the show.

MARK HUNT - The "Super Samoan," may not have picked up a win, but added to his fan base with the performance. It's amazing to think it's been a full dozen years since his unexpected K-1 Grand Prix tournament win that made him into a celebrity in Japan.

Hunt's career resurgence is storybook-like. This is a guy who couldn't last 90 seconds in four straight losses, one to Alistair Overeem and two to current middleweights, Gegard Mousasi and Melvin Manhoef (who was giving up 94 pounds when he knocked Hunt out in 18 seconds five years ago). In his UFC debut, at the age of 36, he was submitted by Sean McCorkle in 63 seconds.

He went from Dana White wanting to just pay off his contract inherited in the Pride buyout just to get rid of him, to a guy that White said after the fight, he'd like to buy an island.

He has an interesting next agenda. He heads to Japan in three weeks for a 32 man arm wrestling tournament, a prime time spectacle on the Fuji Network, on Dec 30. It's a reprise of last year's tournament of Japanese sports celebrities. Besides Hunt, coming from MMA include Fedor Emelianenko, Overeem, Bob Sapp, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Mighty Mo Siliga and 7-foot-2 Hong-man Choi. It also includes kickboxers Peter Aerts, Francisco Filho and Jerome LeBannner, as well as major stars from sumo, boxing, Japanese baseball, football, rugby and pro wrestling, including MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba.

Hunt lost last year in the quarterfinals to Sapp. However, Hunt came back to win a similar celebrity tug-of-war tournament, beating Sapp in the finals.

ANTONIO "BIGFOOT" SILVA - Even though Silva came into the fight as the No. 4 contender at heavyweight, and should move up a spot with No. 2 ranked Daniel Cormier dropping to light heavyweight, he's in a bad position. After his two decisive losses to Velasquez, another title shot is not going to happen for him until the title changes.

There are a number of fresh matchups for him, including Roy Nelson, Stipe Miocic, Junior Dos Santos and Josh Barnett. But it makes no sense to put him in with a potential contender because he can only be a spoiler.

The fight should up his popularity, and probably grant him another main event. But as far as the title picture is concerned, he's in a holding pattern that will last until he loses, or until Velasquez loses.

MAURICIO "SHOGUN" RUA - Coming off his loss to Chael Sonnen on Aug. 17, Rua was one fight away from being written off as a light heavyweight. Dana White had noted that a loss to James Te Huna would mean he'd either have to reinvent himself in a shark-infested middleweight division, or is future in the company was in doubt.

The lethargic Rua (22-8) that had shown up in his previous three fights was replaced by a far better conditioned version here. He looked younger and rested, and took little time in flattening his Australian foe.

While he left himself open to drop to middleweight, coming off the show, a natural matchup seemed with Ryan Bader, who didn't win as fast, but did win is an equally one-sided fashion. Other potential next opponents include Phil Davis (12-1), which would be the one in his best interest because a win would have the most upside; Dan Henderson (29-11), to reprise one of UFC's all-time legendary fights; or Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (12-4), coming off an almost duplicate win over Igor Pokrajac last month.

RYAN BADER - Bader (16-4) had no trouble beating Anthony Perosh, in a fight where the second and third rounds could have easily been scored 10-8. At 30, Bader seems like a perennial fighter who can run through everyone but top five level guys. The same list of possible opponents for Rua would fit with Bader.

The problem with Henderson as a future foe is it would be a fight of big expense due to Henderson's cost, although he's a free agent right now, but a fight with almost no box office value. Davis, a fellow high-level wrestler, would be his best breakthrough opponent, but Rua, as a bigger name, would right now seem to be his best next match up.

PAT BARRY - Barry is at a real crossroads. He's got an infectious personality. He works hard at promoting fights. Regardless of his record, fans like him. He's usually a good guy to have in an early main card fight because, win or lose, it's always entertaining in some form. The heavyweight division always has depth issues and he's fighter whose name people recognize and like to see.

On the flip side, Barry's 34 years old, has an 8-7 record and has been knocked out early in the first round in three of his last four fights. If you take away his personality, those three stats will end most UFC fighters' welcome with the company.

He was in what looked like a must-win situation with Soa Palelei, and lost in 2:09 via brutal punches on the ground. At best, his tenure in the company is in jeopardy.

There are also two other names who deserve mention on a show filled with first-timers underneath.

Alex Garcia (11-1), a lightweight Hector Lombard look alike from the Tristar Gym in Montreal, couldn't have looked more impressive starting out than in a 43 second win over Ben Wall of Australia. Whenever someone wins that quickly, it is almost always impressive, but always leaves unanswered questions.

The other is Justin Scoggins (8-0), a debuting flyweight who has seven stoppages, five in the first round,
At 21, he's one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster, and in a division known for speedy fighters who often lack charisma, and most usually go the distance.

Scoggins made an immediate impression with a skill set deriving a lot from karate, with kicks coming from every angle. He also looked strong with his hands, with his takedowns, and with his groundwork, in finishing Richie Vaculik. The partisan fans were mad about what they considered an early stoppage by Perceval, which they took out on the ref the rest of the show. But Vaculik's position looked almost hopeless in eating a barrage of punches from back position. It may be early for a first-timer to start talking like he's the best in the world, as Scoggins did after winning. But in doing so, he immediately made himself something more than another small guy winning a prelim fight.

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