Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva: Who Really Won the UFC Fight of the Year?

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterDecember 8, 2013

Mark Hunt vs. Antonio Silva: Who Really Won the UFC Fight of the Year?

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    Two days after the fact, senses still numb from an onslaught of violence that felt extreme even to fans of this most extreme sport, UFC stalwarts are still celebrating the mesmerizing fight between Mark Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. 

    We expected, even hoped, to witness a spectacular knockout, the obvious outcome when two gargantuan heavyweights meet in the middle with the worst of intentions. Instead, it was a war of attrition, each man trading pieces of memory and long-term health for the slightest edge. The result was one of the most remarkable fights in UFC history, a battle if not quite beautiful, certainly breathtakingly brutal.

    When 25 minutes were done, the audience nearly as emotionally spent as the fighters, the judges called the bout a draw. Something about that felt right. After all, it would have been a shame for either man to have given so much in pursuit of a win, only to fall painfully short. Neither gave a loser's effort. Both were stalwart, fighting to win until the very end.

    Was it right to declare any man so heroic a loser?

    But the result has lingered in the back of my mind since it was announced. Was a draw the right call? Let's look back at the fight, round by round, as these things are rightly judged under the unified rules, to find out. 

Round 1

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    The Action

    Hunt got a huge reaction from his quasi-hometown crowd in Australia. The 39-year-old New Zealander packed 262 pounds onto his 5'10" frame. That's not the most aesthetically pleasing ratio, but what can you do? He gave up eight inches in reach and six inches in height to the massive Silva.

    After a slight pause, the two touched gloves. That was the last time they touched for nearly 30 seconds, as, perhaps realizing that Hunt had turned into a great counterpuncher, Silva chose to circle warily and switch stances frequently rather than engage. A Silva sidekick to the thigh was the first official strike of the fight.

    Silva landed a total of four cautious kicks before Hunt felt he'd waited long enough. Eschewing counterpunching, he exploded onto the attack at 3:42 with a furious right hand, one Silva was lucky to avoid. 

    "He's so dangerous and very deceptively quick," announcer Kenny Florian said. The experience didn't knock Silva from his game plan. He continued to circle around, throwing the occasional kick, rightfully wary of Hunt's power.

    At 2:37, the two men finally engaged and "Bigfoot" dropped Hunt with a short right hand. Hunt made it back to his feet quickly but ate a backfist and a knee for his trouble. 

    "You cannot sleep on the striking skills of Bigfoot Silva," Florian said. "That's a huge man. All it takes is one shot here."

    Seemingly no worse for the wear, Hunt and Silva continued their dance, Silva cautious, Hunt exploding in when he had an opportunity. With just under a minute left, Silva charged in himself, seemingly looking for a takedown. The two ended up pushed into the cage, where Hunt took momentary control.

    "Nice job by Hunt to reverse Bigfoot and push him against the fence," play-by-play man Jon Anik said. Hunt, who has improved his grappling remarkably since starting his MMA career, even got underhooks, but chose to disengage rather than pursue the clinch game further. 

    The round ended with Silva landing a hard body kick and continuing to circle. This was his round, for sure.

     

    Fight Metric Numbers

    Significant Strikes: Hunt (6/20), Silva (13/20)

    Total Strikes: Hunt (13/27), Silva (18/25)

    Grappling: Silva with one guard pass.

     

    The Judges

    Barry Foley: 10-9 Silva

    Charlie Keech: 10-9 Silva 

    Ron Papaioannou: 10-9 Silva

     

    Bleacher Report Rewatch Score

    10-9 Silva 

Round 2

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    The Action

    Silva, starting the round in the southpaw stance, immediately went high with a left kick. Florian was amazed by Hunt's physique, proclaiming the heavyweight's ankle was "as big as my thigh. The guy is built to fight."  

    All pretense of Hunt as "counterfighter" was out the window at this point. He was stalking Silva, and when he got his back to the cage, he sprung to the attack. Silva escaped and landed a hard body kick and then spun Hunt around with a huge leg kick.

    Hunt missed another wild charge and then Silva found his courage, leaping into the fray with a crazy-looking hammer fist, pushing Hunt into the cage but failing to get him to the mat. 

    "You notice the sense of urgency," Florian said. "As soon as Hunt had his back to the cage, Bigfoot immediately attacked...he gets very aggressive once he has his opponent's back to the cage."

    They continued at distance, with Hunt landing a right hand to the body. Silva continued to switch stances at regular intervals. He missed with a headkick and then wildly with a bar-room haymaker near the fence. Hunt backed Silva up with a right of his own, a punch that made the big man check his mouth for blood. 

    Hunt scored with a leg kick and a two-punch combination, but Silva answered back. Hunt put a body kick in Silva's ribs, the sound reverberating throughout the arena and over the television speakers.

    Silva, at this point, started going low with his leg kicks, targeting the shin and ankle rather than the thigh. Unperturbed, Hunt backed his foe into the cage. "That's where you want him, Mark," someone screamed, but nothing happened.

    With 38 seconds left, Silva scored with a low leg kick that wobbled Hunt. "That hurt Mark Hunt," Florian said. Then, as if to confirm his analysis, Hunt switched stances, hiding his vulnerable left leg from Silva's kicks. 

    "It has definitely taken its toll," Florian said. "Just one or two of those and Hunt has switched his stance."

    Hunt walked slowly back to his corner as the round ended. It was a closer stanza, but still Silva's. 

     

    Fight Metric Numbers

    Significant Strikes: Hunt (11/37), Silva (19/40)

    Total Strikes: Hunt (11/37), Silva (19/40)

     

    The Judges

    Barry Foley: 10-9 Silva

    Charlie Keech: 10-9 Hunt

    Ron Papaioannou: 10-9 Silva

     

    Bleacher Report Rewatch Score

    10-9 Silva 

Round 3

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    The Action

    Hunt's corner between rounds was a grotesquerie. As one trainer held ice to his leg, another accidentally dropped his mouthpiece into a spattering of someone else's blood. To borrow from Dana White, "Do you want to be a fighter?"

    Hunt started the round southpaw, then decided better. He switched back to an orthodox stance and did what Mark Hunt does—looked for the knockout. When Silva threw a leg kick, Hunt was ready. He caught the kick and took the Brazilian jiu jitsu blackbet to the mat. As Silva scrambled to his feet. Hunt grabbed a waistlock and looked to drag him back down. Things had, it's safe to say, gone topsy-turvy for Silva and the spectators alike.

    Hunt pushed Silva into the cage and landed a smattering of punches to the body, light blows to get the big man's attention and make him squirm. The two separated and Silva shot for a takedown of his own. Hunt blocked it nicely and then shrugged Silva down to a knee, his strength a sight to behold.

    "He's got such a low center of gravity," Florian said. "Excellent balance."

    At 3:12, Silva scored with his first significant leg kick after he hurt Hunt in the previous round. But just a few minutes later, Hunt seemed completely recovered, barely even deigning to flinch. But he may have taken note. Seconds later, he initiated a furious exchange against the fence, both fighters just missing with what might have been fight-ending shots.

    After a brief battle in the clinch, Hunt shook Silva with a big right hand.

    Then it happened.

    Hunt dropped Silva with a huge right and casually strolled over to see about finishing the fight. There was something so cool about this, a nonchalance that showed he'd been there before a time or two.

    Taking the fight to him on the ground, Hunt was in search of the strike that could finally end the bout.

    "The arena is shaking and Mark Hunt is pouring it on," Anik said, as Hunt brutalized Silva with short punches and elbows. Hunt passed to half guard, looking for an angle to land the telling blow. Silva did his best to defend, his enormous right hand successfully shielding the bulk of his equally enormous head.

    Hunt continued to pour it on. As the referee announced 10 seconds left in the round, Silva attempted to scramble. It only served to open him up for more hard elbows. This was the most dominant round of the fight.

     

    Fight Metric Numbers

    Significant Strikes: Hunt (16/22), Silva (10/17)

    Total Strikes: Hunt (68/77), Silva (12/19)

    Grappling: Hunt with one guard pass.

    Takedowns: Hunt (1/2), Silva (0/2)

     

    The Judges

    Barry Foley: 10-9 Hunt

    Charlie Keech: 10-9 Hunt 

    Ron Papaioannou: 10-9 Hunt

     

    Bleacher Report Rewatch Score

    10-9 Hunt. This could have conceivably been scored 10-8.

Round 4

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    The Action

    Silva came out a ball of fire, missing a big right hand but proving to the world he was still in it. A heavy leg kick followed, and then it went pure slobberknocker, making Bigfoot think twice and look for a takedown.

    "He needs a takedown in the worst way," Florian said. He had to settle, instead, for a right hand and another solid leg kick. After another right hand, Silva shot, only to get reversed and taken down by Hunt, who passed up the chance at a haymaker to score the double leg.

    Hunt leaped immediately into Silva's guard. A triangle seemed imminent, but Silva was thinking of survival first.  He closed his guard and held on instead. At 3:20, Silva realized he might have the advantage, looking for and failing to find an armbar. Hunt, meanwhile, continued right where he had left off in Round 3, landing a bevy of short shots.

    Silva made his way to his feet and the two exchanged power shots, Hunt throwing an elbow (we would later learn in part because he had hurt his hand) and Silva a right hand. Then it got wild, with both men throwing furious blows, mouths open and gasping for breath but nowhere near quitting.

    A knee turned the tide for Silva, who followed it up with a right hand that shook Hunt, who staggered back to the cage. Silva scored with nine unanswered power shots, just crazy blows that might have felled an elephant. Hunt, rather than fall, decided to throw a left hook instead, keeping the big man honest.

    Hunt failed to finish a trip and ended up on his back, with 264 pounds of Brazilian fury on his chest.

    "Unbelievable exchanges," Florian declared, as lost for words as the rest of us. "This fight is insane."

    Silva got to his feet, holding Hunt down on the mat with just the pressure of his massive left hand, looking for the huge right hand that could bring the fight to a merciful end. Hunt, a warrior to the bitter end, was busy throwing punch after punch from his back.

    "A finish could happen on both sides at any moment," Anik said, as Silva plopped back down into a half mount. It gave Hunt courage to try a sweep, but that only allowed Silva to secure a mount and continue the punishment, including a Sakuraba-ish double hammerfist and two hard elbows, opening a gash on Hunt's head. 

    Silva continued the storm, but just when it looked like the fight might be stopped, Hunt came to life and tried to land a few punches from the bottom. It was enough to give the official pause and to send the fight into a fifth and final round. 

    "Unreal," Florian said as the crowd stood as one to scream its approval.

     

    Fight Metric Numbers

    Significant Strikes: Hunt (17/24), Silva (32/58)

    Total Strikes: Hunt (32/42), Silva (49/82)

    Grappling: Silva with two guard passes.

    Takedowns: Hunt (1/3)

     

    The Judges

    Barry Foley: 10-9 Silva

    Charlie Keech: 10-9 Silva 

    Ron Papaioannou: 10-9 Silva

     

    Bleacher Report Rewatch Score

    10-9 Silva

Round 5

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    Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

    The Action

    "There's three things you need to win this fight," Hunt's corner told him as it worked on his cut. "Heart, heart, heart."

    Silva, meanwhile had to be helped from his stool as the crowd roared.

    "A tremendous outpouring of support for these fighters, who deserve every ounce of it," Anik said. The two men embraced to start the round. Normally that would drive me insane. Here? It felt right. Especially as they went right back to trying to knock each other's block off.

    "This fight is ridiculous," Florian said. He was seemingly reading my mind. Both men continued to throw, but it was Hunt who was getting the advantage of every exchange. A desperate Silva looked for a takedown, but Hunt's underhook game was strong on this night.

    Hunt threw a right elbow that, at first glance, seemed to fall just short. Then the blood came in a small stream from Silva's forehead. It had done its job after all. Silva wandered forward, more zombie than man, but four consecutive left hooks by Hunt seemed to shake him from his stupor.

    Silva shot and missed another takedown and continued to come up short in each striking exchange. The story of the final round was written in blood. Hunt's was dying his hair pink, but the flow had been staunched. Silva's was decorating his face, a steady stream continuing to obey the law of physics. 

    "How much more can Silva take?" Anik asked. "There are not many men alive who could take these shots from Mark Hunt," an awed Florian added. At 2:44, with Silva reeling against the cage, referee Steve Percival decided to stop the fight and have the doctor look at the Brazilian's cut.

    "There's too much blood," he told he doctor as the crowd booed. "I just can't see what it is."

    The doctor signed off on Silva and the action resumed. The big man, however, had received a welcome respite, coming back into the fray with new energy. He renewed his attack on Hunt's leg, trading a low kick for an elbow and left hook. That's not much of an exchange rate. 

    Silva scored with two big rights, sending Hunt scattering to the cage. That particular confrontation culminated in Silva missing a comically slow flying knee. Considering the men were nearly 23 minutes into a 25-minute fight, it was understandable.

    "Exhaustion on both sides," Anik said. "But Bigfoot still trying to finish this fight."

    "We are witnessing one of the best fights of the year," Florian added, as Bigfoot continued to work up against the cage, scoring with seven consecutive strikes before Hunt, once again, backed him off with a ridiculously hard left hook.

    Yet another elbow followed, but Silva, undeterred, continued forward, on momentum and memory more than anything else. He ate another elbow for his trouble but answered back with a big right knee to the noggin.

    With a minute left, the two held each other against the cage, each man's leaning weight holding the other aloft, spent; the well of energy, will and desire they had tapped throughout the fight finally seeming to have reached its bottom.

    "Hard to imagine having more respect for two professional athletes than you do right now for Mark Hunt and Bigfoot Silva," Anik said. Neither man, however, was quite done. Silva looked for the Thai plumb until the bitter end. Hunt responded with dirty boxing. 

    As the bell finally rang, with both men defying the odds and on their feet, they embraced again. 

    "Bigfoot Silva and Mark Hunt—thank you for that performance," Florian screamed, competing with a crowd that seemed like it might never be silent. "That was insane."

    In the end, it was a glorious battle of wills. But it was also a fight that, I thought, had a relatively clear-cut winner. Silva took Rounds 1, 2 and 4. Hunt won Rounds 3 and 5. While a draw may have felt good, objectively this fight belonged to Bigfoot.

     

    Fight Metric Numbers

    Significant Strikes: Hunt (53/72), Silva (23/51)

    Total Strikes: Hunt (60/79), Silva (39/69)

    Takedowns: Silva (0/2)

     

    The Judges

    Barry Foley: 10-8 Hunt

    Total: 47-47

    Charlie Keech: 10-9 Hunt

    Total: 48-47 (Hunt)

    Ron Papaioannou: 10-8 Hunt

    Total: 47-47

     

    Bleacher Report Rewatch Score

    10-9 Hunt

    Total: 48-47 (Silva)