Hunt, Bigfoot draw in brutal UFC Fight Night main event

The beauty of prizefighting is that two men bare their souls to the world. No one really knows what kind of resolve a man can muster until faced with the adversity of fighting for his consciousness. The draw of prizefighting comes in witnessing just how far they can go.

Mark Hunt and Antonio Silva provided another example at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night main event at the Brisbane Entertainment Center. It was the kind of battle that takes a living man closer to death than anything else he can experience, and then brings him back in glorious style.

In one of the most remarkable displays of dual heart and courage seen in UFC heavyweight history, Hunt and Silva went five full rounds, taking the fight world on a roller coaster ride of violence and drama.

When it was over, everyone had their own favorite — the Aussie crowd squarely in Hunt’s favor — but nobody wanted to see anyone lose. As it turned out, the fight got its perfect ending. One judge saw it for Hunt 48-47, but the other two scored it 47-47. As a result, the back-and-forth battle finished as a majority draw.

Despite the deadlocked cards, the UFC announced both men would be awarded win bonuses for the match, which was also a runaway winner for Fight of the Night. Neither was there to hear the universal post-fight praise for their bout, however, as they were among eight fighters transported to a local hospital for precautionary reasons. Hunt said he believed he broke his hand during the fray.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, who is one of the participants in the match (with Dan Henderson) that is widely regarded as the best fight of all-time, fought in the night’s co-main event, and moments after knocking out James Te Huna, watched the scrap in his locker room, marveling at the display that he agreed belonged in MMA’s pantheon.

“It’s very rare for a heavyweight fight to go all the way to the end. Guys are heavy hitters and all that,” he said. “It was an amazing fight. I think they both deserve all the respect from everybody, and certainly, this fight will go down in history as one of the best ever.”

For Hunt, it was nearly a miracle he could make it to the final bell. Late in the second, Silva drilled him with a leg kick that buckled Hunt’s left knee. He spent the rest of the round limping and never really had sure footing under him from thereon.

Still, with his adopted home country passionately driving him forward, Hunt rallied in the third, dropping Silva (18-5-1) with a straight right hand and spending the rest of the frame hunting for a finish.

Though he didn’t get it, it was just part of a fantastic series of sequences that saw each man gain and lose momentum.

“Mark’s Mark. He’s been through these wars,” his friend and occasional training partner Soa Palelei said afterward. “That’s the most dangerous thing, when he goes into the later rounds. He plays possum really well. He can plod along, and next thing you know, he throws the big left hook, right hand out of nowhere.”

Adding an extra layer to the fight, the two fighters were not originally enthused about fighting each other, as members of the American Top Team family that had once trained together. But once they agreed to do so, they competed with all the fierceness of bitter enemies. The final numbers illustrate the competition level. Hunt landed 179 of 249 strikes, while Silva went 126-214. Each also landed over 80 significant strikes and scored a knockdown, yet neither would surrender for good.

Silva got off to a fast start early in the fight, winning the first two rounds by utilizing his reach advantage with front kicks and leg kicks. But after Hunt rallied in the third, nothing would remain stable for long.

Hunt (8-7-1) would land left hooks and right crosses, Silva would come back with knees to the head and body. Each time either looked exhausted, he somehow got a second wind, and a third, and on and on.

The fifth was filled with drama as Hunt, fighting in his first main event since facing Fedor Emelianenko in PRIDE back in 2006, wobbled “Bigfoot” but Silva came back with heavy right hands of his own. Finally, Hunt rocked him again, and patiently teed off against the cage, hoping for the finish. With blood streaming down his face, Silva somehow withstood the barrage.

After referee Steve Perceval stopped to check Silva’s cut, it was pure warfare for the final 2:45, each emptying his arsenal in desperate hopes of finishing. The knockout was not to be, but what followed was almost better. Two warriors who could go home claiming a share of victory.