WOW!!! The main event of UFC Fight Night 33 between Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva and Mark Hunt has the definition of an epic slugfest. Sure, it got sloppy in the end as both men were so gassed that all technique went out the window. But the heart and toughness that both men displayed as they ate punishing shot after punishing shot from one another is what makes this sport so damned appealing. There have been other epic fights this year and this one is right up there with them if it isn't at the top. I won't go into any detail as I'm sure you saw it if you are reading this and if you haven't you wouldn't want me to ruin it for you... go watch it yourself. I wouldn't be able to do it justice anyway. And as for it resulting in a draw... normally I don't really like draws, but no one really wanted to see either man lose after all of the guts that they displayed and I'm very pleased to see that is how it played out. To be honest, that was how I had it scored anyway with Silva taking rounds 1, 2, and 4 by a score of 10-9 and Hunt taking round 3 by 10-9 and round 5 by 10-8
The co-main event was memorable too as it had what some might call a rebirth in the career of Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, as he decimated opponent James Te Huna with a violent left counter just over a minute into their bout.
Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt: I have already sung my praises so I won't do so here. And perhaps it is more appropriate if I separate them from one another in this column... but it just doesn't seem right. Besides, the main thing we learned about both of them happens to be the same thing: they have chins made of cast iron steel! I kept waiting for one of them to drop and never get up, but it didn't happen. Both showed solid ground and pound, but we knew that they possessed that beforehand. Bigfoot showed a smart gameplan attacking Hunt's leg which was visibly hurt. Hunt showed great toughness gutting through the injury and taking at least two of the last three rounds, including the 5th in a dominant fashion. Silva showed heart surviving Hunt's monster right hand straight down the middle and subsequent GNP in the 3rd round. I don't know anyone that didn't like Hunt before this match and I'm sure everyone likes him more at this point. But if you aren't a fan of Bigfoot after this bout (or at least have respect for him), you are plain and simple a hater.
The question is: what to do now? Do they rematch? While I believe that most fans would love that prospect (myself included), I don't believe that is what will happen. Dana White has a tendency to avoid making rematches in matches that end in draw (unless its for the title of course) and I think he would rather leave the memory of these two in the Octagon with one another untouched. And I have admit that I reluctantly understand. So I would say match Bigfoot up with the winner of Josh Barnett and Travis Browne and Hunt with the winner of Gabriel Gonzaga and Stipe Miocic. Bigfoot has expressed interest in facing Barnett before and the bad blood between the two would likely add to the entertainment value. Bigfoot and Browne have fought before, but Browne tore his hamstring during the match which left him to fight on one leg. A rematch would be highly appropriate. As for Hunt, Gonzaga presents some similar qualities to Bigfoot... just not the same caliber chin. But Gonzaga has more quickness and a more proven submission game than Bigfoot. Miocic does have a wrestling background, but has largely utilized boxing in the UFC. Whoever wins their match would be appropriate to face Hunt.
Mauricio Rua: I'm not going to say it. I refuse to say it. Why would I refuse to say that Shogun is back? Because I don't truly believe it. That isn't to take away anything from Rua. His KO of James Te Huna was possibly the best Pride version of Rua that we have seen in the Octagon. But it only lasted 63 seconds. I would hope he has the tank to last that long. And as with many KO's, I'd say some luck went with it to as Te Huna lunged right into Rua's short left counter. Rua proved that he can still win fights... just not against the elite. He is still a marketable name and as he proved tonight capable of a highlight reel KO. Who does Rua get next? Rafael Cavalcante is coming off of a beautiful and violent perfomance against Igor Pokrajac, pounding him into submission. He has talents similar to Te Huna as a stand up fighter who rarely if ever takes it to the ground and it would likely be a short and entertaining bout. Some will say Thiago Silva, but considering his last performance was uninspired and he came in overweight, I don't think he deserves a Top 10 opponent... which Shogun proved he still is.
James Te Huna: Te Huna made a massive mistake. He possesses excellent boxing but decided to turn it into a brawl with Shogun. I understand you have a good chin buddy... but against Shogun? Te Huna has now lost two in a row and is in desperate need of a victory in his next fight to avoid being cut, let alone be considered for a Top 10 opponent again. He does have the talent to break into the ranks, but its gonna take longer than he expected if it is to ever happen. As he proved against Shogun, he's gonna have to improve his fight IQ. Fabio Maldonado is actually coming off of two wins in a row, but is a very one dimensional boxer who doesn't have a lot of power, but can overwhelm opponents with his swarming style. Just the type of game that Te Huna needs to get back on track.
Ryan Bader: I'm not sure whether to be disappointed in Ryan Bader or not. It isn't that he looked bad... he actually looked very good. But he just couldn't put Anthony Perosh away. I'll attribute it to Perosh being one tough SOB. Bader took him down consistently and even landed some nice uppercuts from standing to send Perosh stumbling and rock him at another point. It was nice to see him use his wrestling as well as that hadn't been seen in a while. Bader has the tools to be a top tier fighter and he is still young enough that there is time for that to happen. But I don't feel there is a need to rush him in against a Top 10 fighter yet. Thiago Silva would be an awesome choice. Both have wavered in and out of Top 10 rankings the last few years and seem to be on the same level. Give them the opportunity to prove who is better. I got a feeling that one would likely end well before 15 minutes is up.
Anthony Perosh: I have seen it stated that Perosh should have retired after the Vinny Magalhaes win as it would have been difficult to top that 14 second KO. Even though those people may have been right, my respect for Perosh grew in this bout as he showed just how tough he really is. Bader pounded on him the entire fight and he was still there in the end. I'm sure that Perosh would like another opportunity despite the fact that he is 41 and if he wants it, I say the UFC should give it to him. Kyle Kingsbury is the first one that comes to my mind. He was considered a hot prospect at one point, winning 4 in row. He has since lost 3 in a row and hasn't fought in over a year. The best way to put it is this is a winnable fight for Perosh against a foe that had name value at one point if he doesn't now and he rides off into the sunset on a win. If he doesn't win, at least they get Kingsbury on track.
Soa Palelei: I thought that Palelei would be embarrassed by his first two Octagon fights and would come out with a vengeance. And I am proud to say that I was dead on! Palelei finally showed what all the hype behind him was all about, getting Pat Barry to the ground fairly easy and then dropping fists on him in a scene similar to Bigfoot Silva pounding on Fedor Emilianenko. I will give credit as his takedown was a thing of beauty, eating a knee on the way in. He then muscled through a kimura attempt from Barry and worked his way into mount on the way to victory. Brendan Schaub has shown to be inconsistent in his performances and considering that Palelei's performances in the Octagon are all most have to go off of, he'll likely get that label as well. Match them up and see who can put together three wins in a row.
Pat Barry: Its a very real possibility that Barry will receive a pink slip as he is now 5-7 in the UFC. He didn't show anything that we didn't already know as he showed little grappling ability and never really showed any of his striking. The fact that Barry is a fan favorite and the heavyweight division is very shallow could (and I believe should) get him another match inside the Octagon. He has enough wins that its proven he can separate those who should be in the UFC from those who shouldn't and he usually does so in an entertaining way. Matt Mitrione is on a similar path at this point, having lost 3 of his last 4. Both are strikers with knockout power and questionable chins. Lets put someone to sleep and then send them on their way out of the Octagon.
Clint Hester: Hester had his moments in the first round, but really found his range in the second round. And then we find out that Dylan Andrews seperated his shoulder during the round and was at a clear disadvantage. So maybe Hester didn't look as good as I had originally thought. But there shouldn't be any debate whether he belongs in the UFC at this point (even if he couldn't finish a guy with a seperated shoulder). Yes, he did get taken down, but got up fairly quickly and exhibited more of his vaunted boxing. I see a couple of options here. Luke Barnatt is coming off of an impressive win over Andrew Craig and has similar experience (as well as being part of the TUF 17 cast). Or Hester receives the winner of the Tom Watson-Nick Catone match at UFC 169. I'd say it depends on if the UFC wants to give Hester a veteran or a fellow prospect.
Dylan Andrews: I doubt that there is anyone who will question Andrews toughness at this point. He could have asked to have the match stopped as soon as his shoulder popped out but he finished out the round and didn't allow Hester to finish him despite his best efforts. It would be safe to say that he won a competitive first round as well showing solid boxing and taking Hester down. I liked the guy before, but I am a genuine fan at this point. Lets hope the injury doesn't sideline him for too long. Andrews is 34 at this point, so you can't really label him a prospect though, so I would say line him up with a veteran. CB Dollaway would be good choice as Andrew's loss was because of injury and Dollaway's last loss was debatable.
Bethe Correia: Correia did what I expected of her by showing patience and landing shots when the opportunity presented itself. In retrospect I shouldn't have been as surprised by her strength as I was as she was able to largely outmuscle Julie Kedzie in the clinch and take her down a time or two as well. She showed that she does deserve a place on the UFC roster, but considering it wasn't a dominating performance, a major step up in competition isn't in order. I would even say that Correia is still a prospect despite Kedzie being a very respectable opponent. Raquel Pennington has a similar style to Correia and both have a similar amount of experience. The winner could be on their way to big things.
Julie Kedzie: I was waiting for Kedzie to have an explosion of offense similar to what she showed against Miesha Tate, but it never happened. I admit she landed some nice shots, but in the end it wasn't enough. It made me wonder if she is capable of that type of offense anymore. She did show some savvy with some sneaky punches and getting to her feet quickly, but that was her fourth loss in a row and second in the UFC. I would have thought that the UFC would show her the door... but Kedzie had decided beforehand, win or lose, that this was her last match. Its kind of sad to see a WMMA pioneer go out on a loss, but she has nothing to be ashamed of. Those of us who enjoy WMMA today should take our hats of to Kedzie and offer many thank yous to her for helping to blaze the trail that many women now walk upon. Kudos to you Julie, and enjoy your retirement. I hope we see her involved in some capacity with the sport.
Takeya Mizugaki: Mizugaki was dominant in the first two rounds and did exactly what he was expected to do to Nam Phan, showing solid boxing and mixing in some takedowns, but let the third round slip through his fingers. Nonetheless, it was enough for a victory over an always game opponent and should result in a step up in competition. But with a lot of the top talent in the division tied up and Mizugaki falling short every time he has received that opportunity, I actually don't think he will get a Top 10 opponent. Raphael Assuncao seems to be the only Top 10 opponent available and though I would like that match, I got a gut feeling that isn't going to happen. Who might I have in mind then? Francisco Rivera seems ready to burst into the rankings and if he is able to topple Mizugaki he would be able to crash that party. For Mizugaki, it would be his fifth straight win, an amount the UFC can't ignore anymore and he finally receives a Top 10 opponent of his own.
Nam Phan: I seem to say this after every Nam Phan fight: Phan is as game as they come, but was simply overmatched and outclassed this time. That puts his record in the UFC at 2-5 and a very real possibility that he receives his walking papers. But considering he leaves it out there every time he could very well receive the Leonard Garcia (or Dustin Pague if you prefer) treatment and receive another opportunity. If Kid Yamamoto ever fights again in the Octagon, a match between him and Phan is ideal for the both of them as Yamamoto has lost all three of his UFC fights. Ivan Menjivar has lost 3 of his last 4 and would be another option. I promise it won't be another Top 10 opponent though.
Caio Magalhaes: It wasn't exactly a great performance, but Magalhaes did enough to pull out a close decision over veteran Nick Ring. Ring ended up gassing in the end and should have been easy fodder for Magalhaes to pick apart in the final round, but even though he had more energy than Ring, Magalhaes was too tired to really take advantage of that, simply stuffing Ring's pathetic takedown attempts and landing some blows when he had the positional advantage, settling for cruising to a debatable decision. I don't see a large jump in competition coming as a result. Uriah Hall and Chris Leben have a loser-leaves-town match coming up at UFC 168 and the winner would be a great option to match up Magalhaes with. Maybe we would get to see his vaunted Brazilian jiu-jitsu then, as it has yet to be exhibited in the UFC.
Nick Ring: I gotta believe that this is the end of the road for Ring in the UFC. His 3-3 record in the UFC isn't horrible, but two of those victories were very debatable and he has the same issue in every fight: he gasses before the close of the second round. If he had lost in a fashion that showed improvement in that area, I believe he might have received another opportunity. But he didn't, has lost 3 of his last 4, and likely isn't going to get any better at 34. If the UFC amazingly decides to keep him around, another fighter coming off of a disappointing loss such as Andrew Craig or Bubba McDaniel makes the most sense.
Justin Scoggins: Scoggins lived up to the hype (at least for those that had heard of him) as he showed excellent striking and better than expected grappling pounding out a TKO stoppage of Richie Vaculik on the ground that many (including myself) thought was stopped early. No fault of his own if it was though. He didn't get to exhibit any highlight reel kicks that he is capable of, but that seems to be the worst thing we can say. Before we get too excited though, remember that he is only 21 and Vaculik was making his UFC debut as well. It isn't like he took down an established UFC mainstay. Alptekin Ozkilic and Darren Uyenoyama face off next week and the winner of that fight would be a great option for Scoggins sophmore effort in the UFC.
Richie Vaculik: Vaculik showed a lot of heart in his TUF Smashes appearance and that was about it. The same could be said in his official UFC debut, but to make matters worse is he was facing someone his own size this time. The match seemed to be stopped as he was in the middle of adjusting his position and he was upset about the stoppage and I believe he has a point, so I believe he deserves a sophmore effort. Ryan Benoit is similar to Scoggins the sense that he is a young prospect with explosive striking, but he is coming off of a loss in his debut. Vaculik would match up nicely with him and give both a chance at redemption after disappointing debuts.
Krzysztof Jotko: I have a hard time believing that anyone found his match with Bruno Santos entertaining, but Jotko completely stifled Santos game plan. I don't know if that was his entire game plan, but it worked well enough to get him a victory. He showed excellent takedown defense a which was surprising as it was assumed that Santos had a clear strength advantage and was expected to take him down at will, but Jotko proved to be incredibly wiry. I admit he proved me wrong in that department. Aside from the sloppy clinch work from both men, Jotko landed more shots and that ended up making the difference in the fight. Santos is known for his boring style and I would believe that the UFC would love to find out whether Jotko can put on a fun fight. Josh Samman is available and has had some good showings in the TUF house and in his lone official UFC match. Should be fairly even on paper.
Bruno Santos: Santos needed a win very badly here. He is well reputed for his lay and prey style which fans (and promoters) find frustrating and considering the most entertaining aspect of the fight was Jotko's post-fight dancing, Santos is on thin ice. Since fighters often learn the most from their loses, its likely we'll see a better version in his next appearance. Thiago Perpetuo put on a FOTN with Omari Akhmedov about a month ago in which he ended up on the short end of the stick. He would represent Santos best chance of sticking around long term as it is a winnable fight and even if Santos loses, Perpetuo might be able to pull an exciting fight out of Santos to allow him another opportunity.
Alex Garcia: The only UFC debuts off of the top of my head that were successful and faster than Garcia's were Ryan Jimmo and Todd Duffee. Garcia looked like a beast, showing awesome power in dropping Ben Wall in a quick 43 seconds. Many have questioned whether or not he should be fighting at welterweight with his stocky frame looking as though it is better proportioned for lightweight. Well... this fight really didn't prove anything as far as that goes. Wall is really a lightweight who filled in on short notice. I've already said Garcia looked like a beast. He just needs to have a match against a real welterweight to dispel any notions of him making a drop. He was originally slated to face Andreas Stahl and that may be worth trying again. Zak Cummings is a big welterweight who has never been KO'd. Just the type of test Garcia needs.
Ben Wall: Wall likely would not have ever gotten a call from the UFC if he turned down this opportunity, so even though it was a humiliating loss, it got him in the UFC and likely another opportunity. The UFC will usually do that much for you if you take a fight on 12 days notice. I don't think that the UFC has any long term plans with Wall though so I see him being fed to either a debutant with big expectations that the UFC wants to start off with a win or someone who has struggled as of late and the UFC wants them to get on track. I realize that nothing being said here is flattering towards Wall... but he hasn't shown that he belongs. He is a natural lightweight though and I'll be shocked if his next fight isn't there. Considering the UFC invested a TUF season in promoting Colton Smith and he has lost his only two fights since winning the TUF 16 tournament, I see Wall being set up to build Smith back up. An upset is always possible.
I'm always open to comments and opinions so please feel free.