When Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva steps into the cage against UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 160 on May 25 in Las Vegas, he will be re-matching a man who – at almost a year to the day – gave Silva the worst beating of his eight-year career. Only this time, he knows exactly what he won’t be doing come fight time.
“First thing, no kicks. That is very important,” Silva said recently during a press tour in anticipation of the Memorial Day Weekend meeting with Velasquez.
It’s understandable that Bigfoot doesn’t want to throw kicks against the hulking Mexican-American. In their inaugural meeting, it took about 30 seconds for Velasquez to grab a kick from the Brazilian, rip him to the mat, and beat him senseless by 3:36 of the opening frame.
That loss, on May 26, 2012, was the second consecutive loss for Silva. He was previously knocked out by Velasquez’s teammate and perennial contender Daniel Cormier at the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals in September of 2011. Since those crushing defeats, the six-foot-four, 265-pound Brazilian behemoth has back-to-back knockout victories over the previously undefeated Travis Browne and a vicious “Knockout of the Night” third-round comeback over top-ranked Dutch striker Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 in February.
Despite being 2-2 in his last four fights, Silva is quick to dismiss any criticism of him earning this title shot against Velasquez. For Bigfoot, it’s just simple math.
“I fight two of the best guys in the weight division in the UFC,” he stated. “Travis Browne never lost. He’s a tough guy. And the other guys, Alistair Overeem was number two or three in the world, and if he would have beaten me he was going to fight for the belt.”
By defeating the widely viewed number one contender in Overeem, Silva dispatched of the hype-train that was “Ubereem” and earned the respect of MMA fans across the globe. Silva says that he never had been so enraged at a fighter’s pre-fight trash talk, a feeling that was more than evident when Silva stood over a lifeless Overeem, taunting the former K-1 Grand Prix Champion at the conclusion of their scrap.
“I said, get up! Get up! You don’t want to fight, (expletive)!”
A truly terrifying visual to any of those who had the pleasure (or pain) of watching that fight unfold.
Now with a re-match looming against Velasquez, Silva faces questions about whether or not he will be mustering the same anger that helped fuel his comeback win against Overeem.
“Yes (I’ll be angry),” he said. “The first reason why, is, I want the title.
“And the second thing, every day I get up and look in the mirror (and see) the big cut on my face, for this, I’m very angry.”
After giving Silva 15 stitches in the center of his face, Velasquez went on to reclaim the heavyweight title from Silva’s countryman and sometime training partner, Junior dos Santos, at UFC 155.
“Cigano,” who also was in attendance on Wednesday, had some very poignant advice for his comrade; advice that will surely be elaborated on more as the fight draws near.
“I think he has to put some pressure on him,” said the former heavyweight champion. “You can’t stay waiting too much for Cain Velasquez.
“You have to go there and beat him like this: you have to go in there and put pressure on him. That’s my opinion. We already talked a little bit about this and I truly believe that he will win.”
As the two Brazilians share a massive meal of steak and shrimp, they go back and forth about a myriad of subjects and shared memories. Silva listens intently to dos Santos, but he wants to make one thing clear, although this is a new fight, he won’t be changing his strategy when he meets Velasquez for a second time.
“I’m going to train the same strategy as I trained before,” said Bigfoot. “The problem was my mind, my adrenaline. But I’m going do the same thing. I have a lot of skills to win this fight.”
Like many championship-level fighters, Silva realizes that your losses are just as important as your wins if you’re going to grow as a martial artist.
“The first fight with Cain is very important because I learned a lot from it,” said Silva. “[That] fight, I was very nervous because it was my first fight in the UFC. Now I’m very, very different. I have a good camp. I’m going to do the same strategy, and this fight will be very different.”