UFC Fight Night 33: Mark Hunt vs. Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva Dissection

Preview and analysis of tonight's UFC Fight Night 33 headliner between heavy-handed slugger Mark Hunt and hulking top-10 heavyweight Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.

WHO: Mark Hunt vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva
WHAT: UFC Fight Night 33
Brisbane Entertainment Center in Brisbane, Australia
WHEN: Friday, December 6

Mark Hunt vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva -- Heavyweight bout

The featured fist-fight on tonight's lineup pits fan-adored K-1 Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt (9-8) versus resurgent leviathan Antonio Silva (18-5).

Though this is the big hurrah and the scrap everyone's anticipating, the match-up analysis is painfully straightforward due to the obvious differences between Hunt and Silva. The most significant of those glaring disparities are height and girth -- Hunt is a pear-shaped 5'10", Silva is a gangly 6'4" -- speed, agility and combat specialties. Overall, this boils down to a high-level striker vs. grappler match: Hunt, a legit world class striker, will enjoy a massive edge in speed and agility while Silva, a towering Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, will dwarf "The Super Samoan" in the cage and endeavor to exploit Hunt's aversion to wrestling and grappling.

It's comically ironic that both men will hit the scales at about the same weight yet Silva will impose a daunting six inches of height and eight inches of reach on Hunt. And even though Silva is being painted as the grappler here, his hands are probably the biggest catalyst for his quasi-revival. "Bigfoot" has never been an inept striker (his third black belt is in Shotokan karate) but his unkempt tendencies have been honed into a much more serviceable package. He throws long, straight punches with considerable zing, his improved footwork and sense of balance enables him to unload combinations quicker and the addition of his stand-up prowess makes his takedown attempts less predictable.

Considering the match-up variables here, range should once again dictate success. Bigfoot is almost a sitting duck out in open space and Hunt should avoid being cornered or clinched like the plague. The catch is that most of Hunt's striking voracity actualizes at toe-to-toe range where he's in severe danger of being engulfed by Silva's size and clinch tactics, and that's also where Silva's more primitive striking has a better chance to become a factor. Since Hunt, who's mostly a boxer despite his kickboxing accolades, pretty much has to enter the danger-zone in order to land punches, he must do so in the center of the cage with the luxury of myriad escape routes. The farther away from open space and the closer to the cage perimeter Hunt is, the more Silva's chances of locking horns and working his core competency increase.

There's another little twist to the dynamics in that Hunt, or any striker for that matter, is also at risk of being taken down any time his feet are planted firmly to generate power on his strikes. No foot plant equals no hip torque, which equals no punching power -- and Mark Hunt with no punching power is like a Sherman tank with no cannon.

This puts reactionary timing as the second most important variable, as Silva will be looking to broadside Hunt with a clinch attack or a takedown while he's committed to a heated combination. Of course, purposely darting directly into one of the deadliest wheelhouses in all of MMA is no easy task -- Silva must engage at unexpected times, from unpredictable angles and keep his head off-center at all times. On the flip side, this means that Hunt will have to be especially judicious with his strike selection, walk that fine line of committing to fight-ending volleys without leaving himself exposed for a takedown and rely heavily on his footwork and cage motion to avoid head-on collisions. His leg kicks, however, are an under-utilized tool and one that'd wreak havoc on Silva during his lumbering pursuit.

When Hunt is in the pocket, he'd best be throwing quick and hard combinations on his way out. Hunt has shown the ability to alter his menu with the inclusion of more anti-takedown strikes. Generally, he keeps a lower level, targets the upper-chest more than the head and chin and, in what's his most formidable adjustment, keeps his right hand cocked for a nasty uppercut that's perfectly attuned for an opponent looking to change levels. Hunt is game and talented enough to knock people out while backpedaling, but the way he rapidly changes from retreating to exploding forward with lightning-fast salvos is another trusty ruse that Hunt's employed successfully.

Though he's made some strides with his grappling and takedown defense, Hunt was almost starting from square one and I doubt it'll be enough to consistently repel a mammoth like Silva. Overall, the fact that Silva can contest Hunt on the feet much more effectively than Hunt can contest Silva on the mat is probably the reason Silva is a narrow favorite. Really, Mark Hunt is one of the last and only one-dimensional fighters at MMA's top level, and his survival is a testament to how ridiculously good that one dimension is.

If I were a betting man, I'd either go light on Silva or steer clear of this one. It's the type of fight that will likely be decided by circumstance, live-time instincts or capitalizing on one simple mistake.


My Prediction: Mark Hunt by TKO.

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