At its best combat sports is never a technical exhibition on the highest level. We can connect with guys in nearly every other sport on a human level when it becomes more about heart and guts than it does on anything else. It’s why Luke Cummo vs. Joe Stevenson may have been the better fight on a pure technical basis but the standard for TUF Finales will always be Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin at the first “Ultimate Fighter” Finale.
We connect with combat sports when it comes to guts and not quitting. It touches on an emotional level that makes us let go of our instinct to decry it as sloppy brawling because it touches us on that emotional level. Plenty of people had tears in their eyes at the end of that fight because (to paraphrase Vision Quest) it ain’t the 25 minutes that matter … it’s what happens in that 25 minutes that matters.
And in those 25 minutes we were elevated to a better place, if only for a short while.
The best fights of all time have this type of feeling. Mauricio “Shogun” Rya vs. Dan Henderson could’ve easily been stopped multiple times if either guy would’ve quit, for example. Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva became the most unexpected epic fight in MMA history Friday night because of this avoidance of the human instinct to walk away because it’s too much. After 25 minutes both men were obviously beaten up, Hunt’s blonde hair dyed red the hard way and Silva wearing a T-shirt of someone else’s blood for once, and for the first time in modern MMA history a draw was the preferred result.
No one complained about the draw outside of Australian fans at the arena, who obviously wanted their native son (Hunt) to win. Both guys gave everything in an epic battle with no losers to be found. The fact that neither has a loss on their record over this fight, and that no one cares that it happened, is a testament to how much of a battle the fight really was. It was the perfect result and in a year filled with a handful of the best matches of all time in the sport … we got everything we needed in 25 minutes. It’s also why we don’t need a rematch between the two down the road unless it’s for a UFC title.
Photo Courtesy of MMA Weekly.com, Photo by Allan Allport
There are three real reasons why we don’t need a rematch.
1. The rematch won’t live up to the original
Whenever you do a rematch of an epic fight without the circumstances being greater than the first you usually wind up with a fight that takes away from the first. The finale of “The Ultimate Fighter” meant something as both fighters were fighting for a slot in the UFC. Nowadays another fight in the UFC after the TUF Finale is usually a guarantee but oh so many years ago this was perhaps the only chance Griffin or Bonner would have in the UFC.
And they fought like it.
Their second fight didn’t live up to the hype, and wasn’t all that good without the context of the first one, because the stakes weren’t greater. It was just another fight on a PPV, nothing more, and it didn’t feel like it meant more than the original. The second fight between Hunt and Silva won’t be epic in the way we want it because it was so unexpected. No fight can live up to how epic Hunt/Silva was.
2. A title isn’t involved
The reason why Alvarez/Chandler 2 felt more important than the original is because a title was on the line. This was the beginning of potentially the greatest non-UFC trilogy on American soil in MMA. There are other matchups for Silva and Hunt in the division that is interesting enough to avoid a rematch.
3. Absence makes the heart go yonder
Shogun vs. Henderson feels more epic in retrospect because we haven’t seen it again. We can wonder what if, of course, but the narrative comes down to one fight for the ages. Same with any other number of epic fights that weren’t fought again, of course, but we can always hang our hat on that fight as a moment in MMA. It feels bigger in retrospect because they never went back to the well again, like an ex-girlfriend who could’ve been the one but wasn’t at the time that you never see again. Yeah you may have met someone equally good or better but you can always wonder what could’ve happened.
And in a way Hunt/Silva 2 would probably take away from the first fight in the same way Griffin/Bonner 2 has become the bastard child of epic rematches.
Griffin/Bonner 2 gave us the closure the first fight didn’t; that Griffin was the better fighter and that Bonner peaked with one fight on Spike TV. The historical narrative is that fight was one fighter who would briefly hold UFC gold began to ascend and another, who never would, would always have that fight to hang his hat on. The rematch just reinforced it. Seeing their careers never cross again would’ve given us the same career result, of course, but the rematch feels like a movie sequel that takes away from the original.
Tags: Mark Hunt, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC Fight Night 33