UFC Fight Night 33 Review
We jokingly called for five rounds.
Heavyweight fighting typically goes something like this: someone gets knocked out or submitted in round one; otherwise, a full three rounds of desperation haymakers and cartoonish iron lung breathing. It’s an axiom proven at all but the highest levels of big man MMA. So, when Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, who’s flirted with that highest level without ever firmly established himself there, and Mark Hunt, the quintessential heavyweight journeyman, stepped into the cage with five rounds looming overhead, we mashed our keyboard with ironic glee.
It went the distance, and the desperation haymakers and exaggerated exhaustion were on display, but the setups and punchlines were absent. In their place: exclamation, joy, wonder. Armchair scorecards were forgotten. We watched. We watched two men with comically large bodies more suited for pro wrestling beat the hell out of each back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. When it looked like exhaustion, through a combination of cardiovascular deficits and massive head trauma, started to set in, they just beat each other up some more.
Bigfoot controlled the early portion of the fight. He scored a knockdown in round one and kept Hunt at distance for the greater part of the first ten minutes. Hunt responded in round three, a straight right hand splitting Silva’s defenses. But as Silva Piston Honda’d to the canvas, Hunt strolled after him, showing the urgency of a man out to pick up the morning paper off his driveway. Silva survived the round.
We would have been satisfied had it ended there. It wasn’t a fight of the year contender, but you’d be hard pressed to come up with five better heavyweight fights from this year. You might be hard pressed to come up with any better heavyweight fight from this year.
Rounds four and five helped transcend the fight from “quality heavyweight scrap” to “this is good oh man this is great oh oh oh wait this is so good I think I’ll transcribe the noises I’m making to Twitter.” Silva came back in a big way in round four. Hunt ended up on the floor, throwing punches from his back, because why not? Silva took mount, and fight fans had Fedor Emelianenko’s close-to-dying Wolfenstein 3D face flash before their eyes. A stoppage seemed imminent and then the ten-second warning clacked away and we all yelled at referee Steve Perceval to mind his business, they’re friends, they just need to work some things out, OK?
Perceval obliged. Hunt regained control in the fifth due to an eighth wind or Bigfoot’s flushed adrenaline or Hunt hulking up on the backs of the hometown Aussie crowd (ha ha he’s from New Zealand). I don’t know what happened, but the fight had swerved enough times that even Vince Russo said, “Hey, guys, I think that’s enough.”
Hunt, bleeding himself already, opened a cut around Silva’s eye. They were covered in red as the fight wound down. Their own blood, each other’s blood, who knows. Hunt’s bleached hair got the Ric Flair treatment. Yet they swung and swung and swung. Then they’d look at each other in a sort of confused, admiring way for a moment before swinging some more. Eventually, the final horn blared.
Scoring was forgotten long ago, but some scrambled a scorecard together anyway. 48-47 Silva. 48-47 Hunt. 49-48. 47-46. They didn’t matter. Bruce Buffer read the official cards: 48-47 Hunt, 47-47, and 47-47. Those didn’t matter either.
-The five-round non-title fight was once a controversial subject. There were worries about “cheapening” title fights and losing the five-fight PPV format and “OH MAN WHAT IF THE FIGHTS SUCK.” It was a sad time.
The UFC instituted the policy starting with Chris Leben and Mark Munoz at UFC 138 (which, thankfully, was on Spike TV). Since then, we’ve seen Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua, Chang Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier, Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera, Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann II, and now Hunt vs. Bigfoot. And those are just five-round non-title fights that needed the extra rounds.
The concept proven itself. The next step is to expand the five-round fight further down the card.
-”Shogun” Rua is back! Or, not. Shogun stepped into the cage a +120 underdog after opening at -160. The line movement says more about Shogun’s decline, the toll his body’s taken, than anything about James Te Huna. A Te Huna win would have said more about Shogun’s decline than anything about James Te Huna. He entered the fight with six losses in his pro career, two of which came in the UFC to Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson, respectively. His best win is Joey Beltran? Ryan Jimmo? Aaron Rosa? Yet people had started talking about Te Huna as a dark horse contender at 205 pounds, but you’ve gotta be the darkest of horses when you have a handful of pro losses and no significant wins at age 32.
That’s why this silly talk about Shogun being back is, well, silly. James Te Huna was less a test for Shogun than representing a test. Think of it this way: Dana White is Charles Xavier, the Octagon is the Danger Room, and Shogun is Wolverine without his healing powers. Professor X generated a mid-level baddie to gauge whether it’s safe to toss Logan back in with real live foes. Wolvie proved he’s still game, but that still leaves him vulnerable.
It’s nice to see Shogun isn’t the totally shot fighter we thought he might be going in, but he’s taken so much punishment and his body started breaking down well before said punishment. He’s done at the very highest level, and that’s OK.
-Somehow Ryan Bader beat the hell out of Anthony Perosh for fifteen minutes, and people got on Bader’s case about it because he “couldn’t finish.” Look at these significant strike totals by round (total strikes in parentheses):
Round 1: Bader 22 (45) | Perosh 5 (5)
Round 2: Bader 26 (50) | Perosh 3 (5)
Round 3: Bader 22 (61) | Perosh 1 (1)
That’s a mauling. Bader came into the fight 1-2 in his last three, both losses by knockout and just over ten minutes of Octagon time. I don’t begrudge the guy for making full use of the allotted fifteen minutes to put an extending hurting on a guy.
Look back at the numbers, though. The fight was as much a blowout as the strike disparity would indicate. I tweeted the over-under on total 10-8 rounds handed out was set at 2.5. The judges turned in cards of 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26. One 10-8 round when six, at minimum, were more appropriate.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him at on Twitter.