Hunt, Silva combine for fight so good, normal rules don’t apply


mark-hunt-5.jpgIf you’re one of those people who believes that a tie is the least satisfying possible outcome in sports, you should probably sit down and watch the fight that Mark Hunt and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva just put on at UFC Fight Night 33 in Brisbane, Australia.

If you don’t feel like revising your position after watching 25 minutes of bloody, brutal, back-and-forth rounds between two heavyweights whom most people didn’t expect to make it more than a round or two without someone losing consciousness, that’s fine. But you’re wrong.

After a brain-jarring battle that saw both big men wobble to the brink of unconsciousness, the judges declared it a majority draw, with one ruling in Hunt’s favor (48-47) and the other two seeing it even (47-47).

Normally, that’s the kind of thing that’s guaranteed to elicit boos from a fight night crowd, but not this time. This time it felt right, even if it probably wasn’t (more on that in a moment). This time it seemed like the worst possible outcome would have been for either to be called a loser after all that, wonderful and terrible though it was to see two men hurt each other that expertly for that long.

What made it seem especially spectacular was that, on paper, neither of these guys looks like a five-round fighter. Hunt is known more for walk-off knockouts and excruciatingly laconic interviews than for his cardiovascular conditioning. And Silva? Coming into this event he had 24 pro fights to his credit, with 16 of them ending in the first round. Neither man had ever gone more than three rounds in an MMA bout, and this particular matchup had quick and violent written all over it.

That is to say, it looked like it would turn out more or less the same way most heavyweight bouts do in MMA. Hence the surprise when Hunt and Silva proved to be every bit the tough-guy sluggers we thought they were, but also so much more. We knew they could both hit hard. That’s part of the deal at heavyweight. What we didn’t know is how much they had to offer in the sheer stubbornness category.

Both had their moments where, bloody and dazed and exhausted, they probably should have quit, but just couldn’t. They took turns knocking each other down and splitting each other open, so that by the time the final horn sounded they looked like a couple of giant Oompa Loompas, with skin gone orange from all the blood – their own and each other’s.

Forget the head trauma, the work rate alone would have gassed most heavyweights over 25 minutes of trading concussions and plasma. Then, after all that, it was time to name a winner.

The one judge who did had a debatable way of getting there. Judge Charlie Keech gave Hunt rounds two, three and five – all by 10-9 scores – despite the fact that Hunt limped back to his stool after the second thanks to Silva’s leg kicks.

The other two judges, Barry Foley and Kon Papaioannou, gave the second round to Silva along with the first and the fourth, but they also scored the fifth and final round as a 10-8 victory for Hunt. That’s what triggered the majority draw, which is bound to raise some eyebrows since anyone with half a mind for figures can look at his own scorecard and do the math on what a 10-8 round would mean at the very end of the fight.

Granted, they couldn’t have known that another judge was thinking the same thing, but they might still have to explain why Hunt’s fifth round performance warranted a 10-8, but Silva’s near stoppage of Hunt at the end of the fourth didn’t.

But then, who wants to argue about math after a fight like that? Who wants to get into the technicalities of MMA scoring after a fight so exciting and incredible that most of us forgot to even think about who was winning until it was over? By then declaring a victor almost seemed arbitrary, even a little crass. That’s why the draw just feels right. Brawls like that aren’t something you want to overthink.

There’s also an added benefit (or not, depending on how you want to think about it): without a conclusive ending, Hunt and Silva are practically guaranteed to find themselves in a rematch soon.

Well, maybe not soon. That would be too much to ask of anyone. Even these two.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 33, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.

(Pictured: Mark Hunt)

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