As a general rule, it’s hard to make MMA fans squeamish. We’ve seen Frank Mir break limbs like twigs. We’ve seen B.J. Penn lick another man’s blood off of his gloves and treated him like a conquering hero. We even (unfortunately) had to witness Corey Hill’s right leg turn into a useless hunk of flesh after it snapped nearly in half after delivering a leg kick. It takes a lot to faze those of us that have seen the more brutal moments in the sport. However, every so often there’s a bout that takes the gore to a level where even the most seasoned MMA follower has a hard time believing what’s taking place on the screen.

Fights like this don’t happen often, but when they do, it’s nearly impossible to forget about them. And as badly as the UFC would like fans to forget the previous fight between Cain Velasquez and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, their bout at UFC 146 last year was one of those fights that nearly broke the violence scale, and it’s nearly impossible to overlook how brutally Bigfoot was beaten last May.

Silva had the opportunity to make a huge statement in his UFC debut against Velasquez, but it was clear from the opening bell that he was completely outmatched by the former (and now current) UFC heavyweight champion. It took Velasquez roughly two seconds to put Bigfoot on his back and start raining down punches and elbows, and it wasn’t long before Silva was suffering one of the worst beatdowns in MMA history. A short elbow from Velasquez opened a massive cut between the eyes of Silva that instantly started gushing blood, and what began as an MMA fight quickly became the grossest hot oil (or blood, in this case) wrestling match of all time. Both men were completely covered in Silva’s blood by the midway point of the first round, and a severely wounded and weakened Silva was forced to try to survive with a motivated Velasquez on top of him and looking to make a statement.

After a quick break in the action to try to reduce the amount of blood spilling from Silva’s gigantic noggin (“try” is the key word in that statement), action resumed and Velasquez started pouring on the punishment and eventually earned himself a stoppage win just three and a half minutes into the bout. The loss was by far the most devastating of Silva’s career. After seeing how easily Velasquez was able to dispose of Bigfoot, it appeared Silva’s chances at becoming a title threat in the heavyweight division were slim to none.

Since the one-sided fight against Velasquez, however, Silva has somehow found a way to work himself back up the heavyweight ladder. Less than one full year later, Bigfoot finds himself in his first UFC title fight. It’s almost shocking to see Silva back in the mix so quickly, especially considering that Velasquez is the man standing between him and the belt. But the lack of contenders in the UFC’s heavyweight division opened the door for Silva to sneak his way into a title fight after going on a rather lackluster two-fight winning streak.

It seems odd to call a winning streak that features two straight hellacious knockouts anything other than great, but Bigfoot has caught a couple of huge breaks in his last two bouts that helped him earn this opportunity.

In his first fight since the loss to Velasquez, Silva headlined UFC on FX 5 against rising prospect Travis Browne, and many expected Bigfoot to be beaten down by the younger, more versatile striker. However, “Hapa” tore his left hamstring early in the first round and was essentially a sitting duck as Bigfoot started throwing vicious blows. Eventually, a right hand from Silva connected and put Browne on the canvas and the follow-up strikes were enough to give Silva his first win inside the Octagon.

Although the win over Browne came with a bit of an asterisk, Bigfoot still did enough to earn a shot at a top heavyweight in his next bout. Once again, Silva was matched up against an opponent that was expected to beat him down, but Bigfoot shocked the world and pulled off one of the biggest upsets so far in 2013. Alistair Overeem was just a win away from becoming the No. 1 contender to the heavyweight strap, and most felt “The Demolition Man” would have little trouble against Silva. A tepid first two rounds saw Overeem winning the fight, but the performances by both men left a lot to be desired. When Silva landed a vicious combination against the cage that left Overeem down and out on the mat, he quickly went from sacrificial lamb to No. 1 contender. Suddenly, he’s getting back into the cage against Velasquez, this time with much more on the line.

Whether or not Silva deserves this shot at the belt is debatable, but in the UFC’s defense, the promotion wasn’t left with many options. The heavyweight division has been completely dominated by Velasquez and Junior dos Santos since Velasquez first won the title back at UFC 121 in 2010, and it’s been tough finding new blood that can be seen as legitimate threats to the two best heavyweights in the world.

After Silva knocked both Browne and Overeem from title contention, he basically made himself the UFC’s only option if it wanted to avoid making Velasquez and dos Santos fight in an endless loop of bouts. Former champions Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira have both slowly faded from title contention, Daniel Cormier refuses to fight his friend and teammate Velasquez, and both Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum need at least one more win to be taken seriously as UFC title contenders.

The UFC was left with Bigfoot as the only option that even remotely made sense, and as a result, Silva got himself a title fight. Although he may not have done enough to truly earn a title shot in the eyes of fans that are paying attention, Silva is still coming off back-to-back brutal knockout victories that look incredibly impressive, both visually and on paper. If the UFC is able to put together a few highlight reels showing off Silva’s punching power and can convince casual fans that Bigfoot is a legitimate threat to take out Velasquez this weekend, then more power to them.

Just don’t expect the rest of us to forget about their last fight.

Photo: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.