The UFC returns to the Land Down Under for the fifth time on Saturday afternoon local time to host a main event that is sure to send rumbles felt around the world. Headlining the main card of UFC Fight Night 33, which takes place at 2 p.m. local time, but airs at 9 p.m. EST on Friday night, two of the promotion’s biggest heavyweights, who also happen to be former training partners, will face off, bringing over 500 pounds of fury to the center of the Octagon.

Recent UFC title contenders Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt are set to bring a combined 18 years of global MMA experience, four “of the Night” honors, and seriously bad intentions to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, and the fireworks are sure to fly.

Bigfoot Silva is coming off a tough second loss to UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez earlier this year at UFC 160. The Brazilian trains with American Top Team, has three different black belts, and, before dropping his fight to Velasquez, he enjoyed a two-fight winning streak with TKOs of Alistair Overeem and previously undefeated Travis Browne. Silva was very disappointed in his performance against the champ and is looking to get back in the win column. His opponent is in a similar situation.

Hunt is entering the cage after a tough loss by a surprising spinning hook kick at the hands—or foot—of Junior dos Santos on the same UFC 160 card in May. Prior to that knockout, he was riding a four-fight winning streak with notable knockouts of Stefan Struve, Cheick Kongo and Chris Tuchscherer, and a decision win over Ben Rothwell. His loss to dos Santos was only the second time the former pro kickboxer had been knocked out in his MMA career, and it was the first time in four and a half years.

Hunt is also a representative of ATT and has spent significant time training with Silva, but the Samoan descendant has spent his last four camps training in his native New Zealand. Still, accepting the fight was a tough decision for him. Initially, Hunt wanted to refuse the fight. However, since it had been a long time since they trained together, and wanting to please his bosses, he accepted. These men know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, setting this up to be a very interesting battle.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Silva – 9, Hunt – 10

Bigfoot and Hunt are both big-time strikers who love to stand and bang, and their records prove it. They combine for a total of 19 knockout wins. Silva holds a black belt in Shotokan karate and has an 82-inch reach, huge hands, and nasty leg and body kicks. Although he holds 13 of those knockouts, his wins over Browne and Overeem do have asterisks next to them.

In Silva’s fight with Browne, his opponent suffered a hamstring injury that limited his mobility, allowing the Brazilian to hand him his first loss with ease. Meanwhile, Overeem displayed horrible unprofessionalism, dropping his guard and letting Silva tee off on him. The other three of Bigfoot’s last five fights ended with two nasty TKO losses to Velasquez and a lopsided knockout loss at the hands of short-notice replacement Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals. In his last five fights, Silva has done little to impress in the striking department, whereas Hunt’s story is much different.

At five years the elder, the 39-year-old former K-1 kickboxing champ has had great success inside the Octagon. Of his six fights under the UFC banner, Hunt has only been knocked out once—by dos Santos, which was a freak end-of-third-round occurrence—but has knocked out some big guys. With pro boxing experience to augment his kickboxing, Hunt is one of the most dangerous strikers in the heavyweight division. He may not be as quick and snappy as in his younger days, but he is very calculating and every punch he throws has knockout power.

Hunt may have an eight-inch disadvantage in reach, but that hasn’t really affected him in the past, even against dos Santos, and Silva hasn’t really been able to utilize his length, as illustrated in his bouts with Velasquez and Cormier.

Most of Silva’s knockouts were earlier in his career, and his wins over Browne and Overeem were conditional at best. In the striking department, Hunt holds a clear advantage.

Wrestling: Silva – 10, Hunt – 10

Hunt may be a big guy with a ton of knockout power, but his wrestling skills end in the clinch, with his only expertise going back to his kickboxing days. He is a stand-up fighter and he will be best in keeping his distance from Silva, especially if it hits the mat, where even Cormier didn’t want to go with the Brazilian. Silva has black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and judo, and his long frame makes him very dangerous on the ground.

That all being said, the numbers don’t lie. These two men share similar success in takedown defense, and Hunt actually has better takedown accuracy. Silva and Hunt weigh about the same, but with a six-inch height discrepancy, Silva may be longer, but Hunt has a more concentrated center of gravity. Where Hunt’s skills may be lacking on the mat, his centered power can make up the difference.

In the wrestling category, this match-up is a toss-up. It’s anyone’s guess when power and skill clash at this level.

Submission Grappling: Silva – 10, Hunt – 9

Hunt’s raw power and clinch skills may help in the wrestling department, but, as Royce Gracie showed the world time and time again, there is no substitute for BJJ skills when it comes to submission grappling.

Hunt is at a severe disadvantage when it comes to BJJ skills, and six of his losses were by submission. Silva has won three times by submission and has never been submitted. He has an amazing guard with his long arms and legs, and he will surely submit Hunt if the opportunity presents itself. Hunt may be powerful enough to hang with the wrestling, but his submission defense is subpar at best.

In the submission game, Silva takes this one hands down.

X-factor

The x-factor in this fight is clearly Hunt’s overall fighting experience, primarily as a striker. Silva’s knockouts of Browne and Overeem were not against fighters who were at 100 percent and, other than that, he hasn’t been able to utilize his size very effectively. Hunt picks apart guys of any size. In his last Octagon appearance, he made it late into the third round with a young, hungry dos Santos, who’s a phenomenal striker in his own right. The x-factor is Hunt’s striking experience, with which Silva is going to have a much tougher time than he thinks, ex-training partner or not.

Total: Silva – 29, Hunt – 29

Verdict: It was really difficult to be totally sold on Silva’s status as a title contender, almost more so than with Hunt. Hunt went into his dos Santos fight making a big statement against a much taller fighter. Silva has been destroyed twice by Velasquez, got dismantled by Cormier, and has two questionable wins in the middle. Hunt is an expert striker, and the only way Silva makes it out of this one on his feet is after a submission. Unfortunately for Silva, after two embarrassing losses to Velasquez, he will probably come out trying to make a statement on his feet, and Hunt just won’t have it. Hunt will most likely take this one by TKO, barring a ground battle, which Silva might have a chance at taking by submission. Either way, this one is not going the distance.

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

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator