Antonio Silva has finished 12 different foes in the first round. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Two of the heavyweight division’s heaviest hitters will collide when the Ultimate Fighting Championship touches down in Brisbane, Australia, on Friday, as Mark Hunt battles Antonio Silva in the UFC Fight Night 33 main event at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Hunt last fought at UFC 160 in May, when he was victimized by a spinning hook kick from Junior dos Santos at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The defeat halted his four-fight winning streak and curbed some of the enthusiasm surrounding his resurgence. Still, the 39-year-old kiwi owns victories over towering Dutchman Stefan Struve, Bellator MMA Season 9 heavyweight tournament winner Cheick Kongo, former Pride Fighting Championships 205-pound titleholder Wanderlei Silva and 2006 Pride open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic. An accomplished and experienced kickboxer, Hunt won the 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix, defeating Jerome Le Banner, Stefan Leko and Francisco Filho in front of 65,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome in Japan.
Silva, meanwhile, has not competed since succumbing to first-round punches from heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in the UFC 160 headliner seven months ago. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, the former EliteXC titleholder has secured 16 of his 18 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Silva’s list of victims includes former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem, Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout Travis Browne and the incomparable Fedor Emelianenko.
The UFC Fight Night 33 lineup provides plenty of water cooler fodder. We discuss some of it here:
Knapp: Based on age and career arc, one has to think Silva has the better odds. Hunt’s resurgence has provided the MMA world with a feel-good story, but it has done little to mask his weaknesses: a limited gas tank and suspect ground game. “Bigfoot” can exploit both. The fact that Hunt turns 40 in March only serves to further limit his shelf life as a contender.
Whitman: Mauricio Rua is only 32, but I think he is much older in cage years due to his knee issues and long career. Once a dominant force in Pride and a former UFC champion, Rua has lost three of his last four fights. Rumors abound that “Shogun” might drop to middleweight, but he first must face the hard-punching James Te Huna. How do you see this bout unfolding and where would you like to see Rua compete in 2014?
Knapp: “Shogun” has a clear path to victory against Te Huna, so long as he can put him on the ground; in this matchup, that is where the greatest discrepancy in skill lies. Win or lose, I believe he would be better served by staying at 205 pounds. Once arguably the UFC’s sexiest weight class, it has lost some of its depth and luster in recent years. The middleweight division, on the other hand, has been fortified by the emergence of champion Chris Weidman, the resurgence of Vitor Belfort and the arrival of Lyoto Machida. Add Anderson Silva, Ronaldo Souza and Gegard Mousasi to the mix and you see a gauntlet that would be difficult for anyone to navigate, much less an aging fighter with a lot of mileage on his body.
Whitman: Ryan Bader’s clash with Anthony Perosh seems like a do-or-die fight for the American. Do you agree and do you ever see Bader getting over the hump and returning to the top of the division?
Knapp: This is certainly a fight Bader needs to win, but I hesitate to throw it in the do-or-die category. As I said, the light heavyweight division is not what it once was, so Bader will likely have a longer leash than he might have had a few years ago. Besides, losses to Machida, Glover Teixeira and Jon Jones are not exactly black eyes on one’s resume. I doubt Bader ever climbs into serious contention at 205 pounds, but with his wrestling pedigree and knockout power, he figures to remain a fixture in the top 10-15 over the next three to five years.
Whitman: The matchup between Pat Barry and Soa Palelei should have no bearing on the top portion of the heavyweight division, but it is nevertheless slated for the main card. Are you anticipating an exciting knockout from this pairing or dreading what could turn into a sloppy affair after round one?
Knapp: I must say I am approaching this bout with equal parts excitement and dread. In 36 fights between them, there has been one decision, so you would have to expect it to come to a close before the final bell. I think it ends inside the first round, either with a standing knockout from Barry or a ground-and-pound-induced TKO from Palelei. Let us all agree to hope the finish comes sooner rather than later.
Whitman: The level of emotion shown by Takeya Mizugaki after his last couple of wins has been fun to watch for me. After alternating between wins and losses over nine fights, three straight wins must feel pretty good. Do you think that the Japanese import will maintain his momentum and continue to elevate his status in the division or will veteran Nam Phan bring Mizugaki’s run to a halt?
Knapp: Mizugaki has to be one of the more underrated and underappreciated competitors in MMA, and he has made a living out of chewing up mid-level fighters like Phan. I expect Mizugaki to have his way in the clinch and to generally make Phan’s life miserable over the course of 15 minutes.