It was Mark Twain who wrote, “the very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice” and those famous words seem more appropriate than ever as we approach UFC 160.
The UFC returns to the MGM Grand Garden Arena this Saturday, headlined by a title fight that most people have written off already.
In one corner stands two-time heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, the man who mauled Junior dos Santos to regain his gold. In the other is a man who stands, literally, as a giant amongst the sport’s big men: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Statistically, the challenger looks every inch a viable contender. Standing 6’4 and weighing in at 285lb, he boasts a resume that includes Fedor Emelianenko, Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem.
So why the pre-fight pessimism?
Well, as any MMA aficionado would tell you, this is Bigfoot we’re talking about. You know Bigfoot right? Slow, plodding, clumsy old Bigfoot. Man, he’s got a ton of heart but the genetics haven’t been kind. You see the size of his head? Velasquez can’t miss it. And what about his hands? Hell, they’re so slow he might as well send you an email to warn you that a punch is coming. Trust me, Velasquez won’t be losing any sleep over those.
Sure, Silva beat MMA royalty in Fedor Emelianenko, but we all know that the Last Emperor’s best days were long gone by then. And as for Travis Browne, well that win doesn’t even count. Browne blew his knee before the cage door even closed. Bigfoot beat up a guy on one leg. They shouldn’t have raised his hand afterwards – they should have put it in cuffs.
And let’s not get started on Alistair Overeem. The Dutchman outclassed ol’ Bigfoot for two whole rounds. It was a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. Then he goes and dangles his chin out there like a carrot in front of a donkey and, low and behold, that pesky ol’ mule hit him with a lucky shot. The rematch? Well that would be a totally different story.
While we’re on it, let’s talk rematches. You see, here’s the thing about Saturday’s big fight: we’ve seen it before. We know how it’s going down. Nearly twelve months ago to the day, Cain Velasquez was in the middle of the Octagon reducing Bigfoot to a bloody mess. There was so much crimson, Joe Rogan could have surfed into the Octagon to do the post-fight interview.
Yep, no doubt about it, it’s going to be an easy night’s work for the champ on Saturday night.
Or maybe not.
Cast your mind back to the UFC’s ill-fated debut outing on FOX in November 2011. What a night that was in Anaheim. The UFC had just inked a seven-year deal with the media giant and this was the event to launch them into the mainstream: a heavyweight title fight for the ages between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
We were treated to a solid hour of pre-fight prognostication. First-time viewers were left in no doubt that this was a clash of the titans. The two biggest, baddest men on the planet were meeting in the Octagon and going to war for the next 25 minutes.
The cameras rolled, the action started - and then the lights went out. At least for Cain Velasquez. The champ walked into a right hand that put him to sleep. After all the hype and the hullabaloo, the fight itself had lasted a mere 64 seconds. FOX looked on in disbelief; Dana White shrugged his shoulders. This is the heavyweight division after all.
The beauty of this sport is its perennial unpredictability. Who would have thought that little over a year later Velasquez would indeed regain his title, brutalising Dos Santos over five horribly lop-sided rounds?
Admittedly, it’s hard to visualise Bigfoot Silva as the flag-bearer for the sport’s top division. His size and his gargantuan features, affected by the genetic disorder acromegaly, mean he’ll never attract the endorsements that bolster the wallets of Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones. Perhaps it’s his appearance that also makes him the victim of the revisionist history I cited above. No matter what his record, to some he’ll always be clumsy old Bigfoot.
Yet he’s still a fighter. And a talented one at that. Though critiques of his skillset are valid, Silva will still enter the cage wearing 4oz gloves in a division where one punch can have lethal repercussions.
To rule him out altogether seems so foolish. After all, what are we basing our opinions on? History? Depends who wrote it. Mark Twain told me so.
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