Joe and Antonio: For every cloud there’s a Silva lining

Monday, February 04, 2013

Spare a thought for UFC matchmaker Joe Silva this morning.

As he pours his morning coffee and checks his emails, he might ponder exactly what he’s done to curry such misfortune.

The UFC matchmaker extraordinaire has had it hard of late. 2012 was Silva’s own annus horribilis as he saw event after event ravaged by injuries and suspensions, culminating in the ultimate admission of defeat: the cancellation of UFC 151.

It was the first such concession in the Fertitta’s stewardship of the UFC and it was one that no one wanted to see repeated.

With each passing week, Silva seemed to turn another shade of grey. His phone was surgically attached to his palm, not unlike a seaman’s compass, as he worked furiously to keep the good shop UFC afloat in troubled waters.

That the UFC still delivered a calendar of quality events is testament to Joe’s incredible ability to convince square pegs that their future lies in round holes.

And yet 2013 had started with such promise.

A series of stacked cards in the early months of the New Year had fans buzzing. Last year was just a blip, a one-off, Joe was back in business.

That’s the thing about mixed martial arts – we’ve all got such short memories.

Thus just forty-eight hours ago, Joe sat cageside in Las Vegas and perhaps allowed himself a fleeting moment of self-congratulation. After all, he’d finally pieced together the puzzle of the UFC Heavyweight Title. Gone were the dark days of Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. He finally had some raw materials to work with.

He just needed one more thing to go his way.

Now spare a thought for Antonio Silva.

The UFC’s resident giant, affectionately named “Bigfoot,” walked into the doors of MGM Grand with all the pomp and ceremony of a sacrificial lamb.

Beforehand the talk was how he was being fed to Alistair Overeem, an appetising hors-d’oeuvre ahead of a main course title fight against Cain Velasquez.

In fact, it would make add some much-needed variety to the Dutchman’s diet, given the reliance on horsemeat which allegedly fuels his colossal physique. Of course, the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s urine sample contested that recipe, hence the twelve-month wait for “The Reem” to return to Octagon duty.

In hindsight, given Overeem’s inactivity, we should probably ask ourselves what Silva had done to inspire so little confidence when he entered the cage this past Saturday.

If you asked an alien – who had never before seen men combat in a cage – whether a 6’4 285 lb brute with hands like dinner plates should be so easily dismissed, he might justifiably raise a curious eyebrow.

If you then told said extra-terrestrial that this man had once defeated the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, at one time himself considered super-human, he might question your sanity altogether.
This is mixed martial arts after all; a sport where fortunes are won and lost by the swing of a four-ounce glove.

There’s no room for complacency, a lesson that Alistair Overeem found out the hard way in Vegas. With his hands dangling by his knees and his chin out to pasture, he was the epitome of over-confidence. Like so many gamblers in Sin City, the house called his bluff and he was found wanting.

So what now for messrs Silva and Silva?

Antonio will return to the beaches of Brazil and put his feet up. It’s a vacation made all the sweeter by the sizeable “Knockout of the Night” bonus nestling cosily in his back pocket.

Joe, meanwhile, wrestles with a new conundrum: can he really convince the world that Antonio Silva is a viable contender to Cain Velasquez’s title?

The last time these two combatants met, Silva was left a bloody mess courtesy of the same Velasquez violence that destroyed the myth of Junior Dos Santos.

Surely no one’s going to buy that. At the post-fight press conference it barely merited a mention. “Bigfoot” in a world title fight? Not possible.

But then again, this is Antonio Silva we’re talking about. Didn’t he just knock out Alistair Overeem?

We’ve all got such short memories.

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