UFC Fight Night 33 was, as any event is, a mixed bag.
We had the customary bad decision as Julie Kedzie outworked the woefully inactive Bethe Correia and was somehow deemed the loser. We had a wonderful freak injury as Dylan Andrews tore his own arm out on Clint Hester's guard.
We had a couple of great finishes from Soa Palelei over Pat Barry and Mauricio Rua over James Te Huna. And we had a horribly uncomfortable mismatch between Ryan Bader and Anthony Perosh.
The night was topped off, however, by easily the best heavyweight bout I have seen since the last time Mark Hunt fought. Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva went hell for leather at a pace that would be impressive in middleweights. They kept it up for four rounds before exhausting themselves but continued swinging until the finish.
So a ton of stuff happened and I've only got a thousand words to tell you about it in; let's crack on!
Sao Palelei Pounds Out Pat Barry
Pat Barry is an enormously entertaining fighter and charismatic chappy. Conor McGregor famously described him in an interview with Tracy Lee as "mad as a box of spiders." While this may be true of Barry's personality, his switch-hitting striking game is unorthodox on the surface but downright predictable after studying any film of him.
Before the fight I pointed out to folks in the Twitter-sphere:
What did Pat Barry do? He came out, he got dragged into a clinch, he broke away, he switched stances, and he high-kicked.
Moments later Barry was on the floor in his half guard. Sao Palelei passed to mount as any good top player will do from there, particularly with a weight advantage, and pounded Barry out brutally.
This performance, aside from introducing Palelei to UFC fans, really cements the issue of Barry's weight. As a small heavyweight, he benefits enormously from the terrible level of striking technique, the slow movement and the tendency to collapse when hit hard that the big men up there tend to display.
But being a small heavyweight is a double-edged sword; if you don't have the escapes and survivability of a Cain Velasquez or a Fedor Emelianenko, you are not going to last long enough to turn the fight around. Getting trapped underneath giants, unless you are very experienced on the ground, is just the worst possible way a fight can go.
If Barry can make the cut to 205 lbs, he should move there, now more than ever. While the games are more rounded there, his strength and experience with bigger men should more than make up for his losses in speed advantage.
Lose the Swing, Train the Hook
I will only touch on this point briefly because, aside from some cool takedowns by Dylan Andrews and a nice bit of lateral movement by Clint Hester at the beginning of their bout, it was largely unremarkable. The bout was called to a close, however, by that most dangerous of punches, the swing.
Check out the gif of the injury here.
It was not a completely straight-armed swing that did the damage, so not that traditional cardinal sin of boxing, but it was a very extended hook. Any hook in which the arm is bent at an angle more obtuse than 90 degrees is an impure hook. It becomes less of a stable structure, and injuries are more likely to happen.
Of course long hooks can be used masterfully—look at Roy Jones Jr. But they can also cause ongoing injuries. For instance, Fedor Emelianenko and Igor Vovchanchyn both destroyed their hands with long "Russian hooks."
Long overhand swings leave the possibility of the arm getting caught and torn out of its place. The shoulder is not a particularly hardy joint, as most bench pressers will know, and if you throw your bodyweight through while your arm is left behind and braced on something, bad stuff is going to happen.
Andrews' hook got caught on Hester's guard in a manner reminiscent to Chan Sung Jung's punch getting caught on Jose Aldo's shoulder. The major difference is that Aldo's own punch coming over served to crank down on the Korean Zombie's arm, making an unintentional standing-joint manipulation.
While Jack Dempsey said "Take the swing and throw it in the slop bucket," I will say that overhands and long hooks have more than proven their efficacy over the years. A note should be made, however, that throwing the overhand and allowing it to drape over the opponent, hoping it finds its mark, is a great way to increase the likelihood of these sorts of injuries.
Ryan Bader Grinds Down Anthony Perosh
This fight was simultaneously impressive and disgusting. It shouldn't matter if a fighter is slowly working his way back to full guard while getting pounded with strikes if he has done nothing once he gets to his guard for the entire fight.
This was as much of a mismatch as anyone expected, with Bader mauling The Hippo from top position for the duration.
The embarrassing part of this bout was the stand-up. Bader is a power puncher but typically a sloppy boxer. We examined earlier in the week how he will literally sprint at his opponents with his chin up and his arms flailing. Well...Anthony Perosh decided to do his Ryan Bader impression, except he has none of the power.
But it wasn't just cringeworthy for Perosh. Each time Bader got hit with a punch coming in, which was more often than he should have against his atrociously overmatched opponent, he would stumble back as if hurt.
We all know that Bader is a little chinny, but his absolute absence of defence except in his ability to overwhelm opponents is not what you want to see from a legitimate contender this late into his UFC career.
Perosh made it to the final bell, but as he was accomplishing nothing and taking a horrible pasting, you have to wonder what the point of that was. At a certain point a corner should throw in the towel, save the fighter some years of his fighting life, and come back another day.
A guy who is only losing guard and trying to recover it again, and hasn't attempted a single submission or sweep, is not going to pull out a magic submission after three rounds when he can barely move.
This gif sums up the fight.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua Shocks with Knockout of the Night
There might be some real parallels between James Te Huna and Mauricio Rua. I have seen Te Huna strike intelligently, and it's something to watch. But I have also seen him dive in with wild punches, like the lead left uppercut with right hand at nipple level, which got him knocked out here.
Mauricio Rua, plagued by injuries throughout his career, also has an infuriating habit of fighting masterfully to a plan in one fight, then swinging and looking mediocre against someone like Brandon Vera in another.
Rua seemed on point last night, however, as for the first time in years he committed to movement and kicks in the early going. The standard Shogun overhand as soon as Te Huna even hinted at stepping in was always there, but what shocked was his left hook.
As Te Huna attempted to leap in with a lead uppercut (a daft thing to do), Shogun timed him masterfully and landed a crushing left hook right on the chin.
Te Huna pretty much threw the fight away by making the bizarre decision to drop both hands and lead with an uppercut, but it would certainly have been exciting to see how Shogun continued. Rua looked as nimble on his feet as when he fought Chuck Liddell back in 2009.
Hunt and Bigfoot Go To War
My word, what a main event this was. If you told me a heavyweight fight was going to go to a 25-minute draw, I'd go to bed early. But this one was brilliant. Easily one of the best heavyweight fights in UFC history.
Firstly, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva gets a lot of criticism, because frankly nobody cheers for Goliath. But he showed not only heart and courage that big men don't typically have, but he also showed once again that he is willing to work to a gameplan.
From the get-go, Bigfoot was chopping away at the legs of Mark Hunt. We spoke the other day about Hunt's dislike of low kicks as Jerome Le Banner was able to chop him down in their fourth meeting. Just like that bout, the kick that hurt Hunt seemed to connect not flush on the thigh, but on the upper shin, just below Hunt's knee.
Every time Hunt was getting used to the low kicks, Bigfoot would throw a front kick at face level, or a front kick to the body, and immediately slam in a punch from the same side.
Bigfoot's hands are slow as molasses, but he kicks surprisingly quickly for a big man. If you have a heavyweight who can't move his hands fast enough to make his mark with the jab, chaining it off of long kicks can work a charm. Semmy Schilt is a magnificent example of this, landing his jab almost exclusively off of his blocked kicks.
Hunt was obviously having trouble because Bigfoot was not giving him the opportunity to counter-punch. Hunt, instead, had to lead. Whenever Bigfoot came towards Hunt, the great danger was that Hunt was going to duck onto a kick as he loves to bob his head in low in response to attack. Hunt did a marvellous job of changing up his defences, though, never showing the same evasion twice in a row.
Hunt found his customary left hook to right straight in the the third round and send Bigfoot to the mat. Hunt uses his left hook against or behind the opponent's guard to force them into the line of a shortened left straight. This hides the punch well and caught Bigfoot unaware.
Bigfoot's chin held up incredibly well for the most part. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, his chin is pretty under-rated. Bigfoot has only been put down by punches that he didn't see coming, which is true of most fighters. For instance, Mike Kyle hid his right straight behind jabs, and Cain Velasquez hit him on the counter. Hunt's punches were coming the same way every time. Always hard but always expected.
Secondly Bigfoot's commitment to hurting Hunt's legs early may have taken away some of Hunt's ability to throw with power. Punching power comes from the base, and Hunt was clearly having a hell of a time trying to stay standing on his after the early kicks.
An interesting point is that Hunt broke his hand on Bigfoot's guard or head midway through the fight and noticeably switched to elbow strikes instead of punches. He was able to cut Bigfoot up nicely and land repeatedly with this elbow, and it is perhaps something that he should consider incorporating into his game more regularly.
Something that I would really like to see Hunt not do is drop his hands against the cage. Hurt by a Bigfoot punch that caught him by surprise, Hunt backed onto the cage, dropped his chin and hands and attempted to roll with Bigfoot's punches.
Hunt's reactions are great, but playing silly beggars with Bigfoot is a great way to get put in horrible positions. It was impressive, though, that while Hunt was looking at the ground and taking punches, he was able to immediately swing back with a left hook right on the temple of Bigfoot. He did this same thing off of the fence twice in the bout.
The fight went to the final bell and was scored, in a brilliant turn of events, as a draw. Some are saying that the referee's decision to have Bigfoot's cut checked in the last round, which was one-way traffic from Hunt, saved Bigfoot from being stopped.
But it is worth remembering that Hunt was taking unanswered shots from the mount earlier in the bout, and the fight could have rightfully been stopped there. Instead, Bigfoot exhausted himself on Hunt's iron head, and Hunt survived to the end of the bout.
The fight told us so much about both men. To be honest, in future I would love to see Bigfoot kick effectively more often, and Hunt use his wrestling and ground-and-pound. Bigfoot was able to kickbox with a K-1 Grand Prix winner, and Mark Hunt was able to stuff the takedowns and deep half guard of a giant jiu jitsu black belt, while getting takedowns of his own.
With the biggest event of the year ahead of us at UFC 168, we have to wonder if it can possibly top Fight Night 33's main event in cage drama and action.
Pick up Jack's eBooks Advanced Striking and Elementary Striking from his blog, Fights Gone By.
Jack can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.