UFC Fight Night 33 Preview: Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva

Bigfoot Silva is in an awkward spot in the heavyweight division. He’s a Top 5 fighter … but he’s been thrashed by the reigning UFC champion twice. He hasn’t survived the midway point of the first round twice against Cain Velasquez, who wore matching t-shirts of the giant Brazilian’s blood at the end of both nights. So now he’s an introductory gatekeeper to the elite of the heavyweight division.

Mark Hunt is in a near similar spot. Hunt was on a fairly remarkable winning streak until the second best fighter in the division put his lights out. Unlike Bigfoot, though, Hunt still has a slight chance at fighting for a world title. His chances, though, end with a loss against the Brazilian.

Fight breakdown – Welcome to the heavyweight division’s quintessential striker vs. grappler matchup.

Hunt has a fairly easy game to break down. He likes to throw and has made his career into one of savage knockouts and subpar grappling. He’s improved at it over the past couple years, going from “done as soon as it hits the mat” to “not completely awful” but it’s still a liability. He’s survived against guys with grappling pedigrees because of a couple things: he’s kept the fight standing for at least a round and his incredible physical strength.

It’s the one advantage Hunt has coming into this fight over Silva on a pure physical standpoint. Hunt may be the strongest guy in the UFC on a historical basis; his power comes from good technique but he’s also incredibly physically strong. His gas tank isn’t very deep but it never has really had to be. Hunt is equivalent to Roy Nelson in a lot of ways: tough chin, big power in both hands and couch potato physique.

Hunt is going to have to sprawl and brawl his way to victory. He won’t last one round trying to turn this into a NAGA match with Silva.

It’s how he gets it done in every win and he’ll never get good enough on the ground to grind out a win with top position against anyone of note. Silva has a tough chin but it’s been cracked before by guys with less power. Hunt needs to fight inside, keep Silva standing up and employ a similar strategy to Daniel Cormier in his fight with Silva. Hunt can end this fight with one punch; he just needs to get it through. Silva has slow hands and movement, something he can exploit, and he’s been vulnerable to hooks. Hunt has a great left hook and can lamp Silva with it.

Silva has big hands, and has stopped a number of guys, but his clear advantage is going to be his ground game. Silva’s ground game is rarely used but when he does it’s a thing of odd beauty. His ability to use his size on the ground to gain position, as well as an effective takedown game standing, gives him a clear edge. He needs to get close to Hunt and take him down early, then go for submissions. Hunt has been effective off his back in the past but Silva has a fairly punishing top control game. He broke Fedor on the ground and there’s no doubt he could do the same to Hunt.

Why it matters – Silva can win his way to a third title shot if Cain loses in the near future but he’s in no-man’s land at this point. He’s not going to do anything but become chum in the water against Velasquez. He and Junior Dos Santos are in that same boat; they’ll have to get 5-6 wins in a row by spectacular stoppage to get another crack at the championship as long as Cain holds it. To get back into the mix he needs to win and win now.

Hunt isn’t in nearly the same spot but he’s at the end of his career. If he wants a shot at the UFC title then he has to win. Losing to JDS by knockout isn’t the end of the world. Heavyweight is so thin that a win or two by knockout can get him a title shot as Cain starts to run out of challengers. But a loss here, especially one via KO, and the call to retirement will be substantial.

Prediction – Hunt by KO

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