If you could whittle a fighter’s career down to just four bouts, what would you choose? Grueling wars, spectacular finishes, or bouts that may not have ended with an official victory, but were wins in the eyes of those watching? Heavyweight contender Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, who headlines UFC Fight Night this Sunday against Frank Mir, has been in fights that have run the gamut from explosive to epic. Here are five of them…
Wesley “Cabbage” Correira
Fans of the UFC’s early Zuffa era will recognize the name of Hawaii’s Wesley “Cabbage” Correira immediately. For those who don’t, Cabbage didn’t show up on fight night to show off slick techniques of employ a lay and pray strategy to win; he came to throw down, and the fans loved him for it whether he won or lost. In his Elite XC bout against Silva in 2007, he got shut down early by the Brazilian, who was competing in just his ninth pro bout while making his United States debut. With the action stalled against the fence, the referee restarted the bout with under two minutes left. Then suddenly, Silva pounced, launching a flying knee that stunned the steel-chinned Correira. A series of punches followed, and just like that, the fight was over. People were going to remember this Bigfoot guy.
Following the win over Correira, Silva made his name on the international scene by going 7-1 in his next eight matches, defeating former UFC heavyweight champions Ricco Rodriguez and Andrei Arlovski along the way. But it would be his defeat of a former PRIDE champion, Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce in February of 2011 that was a career maker for the Brasilia native. Nearly eight months after the only truly legitimate loss of his career to that point against Fabricio Werdum, Emelianenko was expected to resume his reign of terror and start a new winning streak, but Silva’s dominant stoppage of the Russian star propelled Bigfoot’s career forward, not Fedor’s.
Back-to-back losses to Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez kept Silva from capitalizing on his win over Emelianenko in the form of a world title fight, but in October of 2012, he earned his first UFC win in his second try, stopping Travis Browne in a single round to put a “1” in the loss column of the Hawaii native and set up a showdown with former Strikeforce roster mate Alistair Overeem.
There was plenty of bad blood between Silva and Overeem in the lead-up to their UFC 156 match in February of 2013, but Bigfoot wasn’t able to do anything about it after two rounds at the end of the punches delivered by “The Reem.” But with Silva, one punch can change everything, and it most certainly did, as Bigfoot stunned Overeem early in the third round and didn’t let his opponent off the hook, picking up the knockout victory at the 25-second mark of the final frame.
After his spectacular win over Overeem, Silva got a rematch with Velasquez, this time for the UFC heavyweight crown, but again, Bigfoot fell short of victory. Undeterred, he began the road back with a five-round main event bout against Mark Hunt in December of 2013 that no one expected to go the full 25 minutes. But it did, and it was beautiful, two heavyweights going for broke with every technique and continually finding another gear to take themselves to. When it was over, a draw was the only just verdict, and that was the one the judges delivered. Did Silva’s positive post-fight test for elevated testosterone put a damper on the fight? For some, yes. For others, they will just remember the glorious 25 minutes Silva and Hunt gave the fans on fight night.