'Bigfoot' proves to be unwilling fall guy

February, 5, 2013
2/05/13
10:23
AM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva seemed to take particular joy in knocking out Alistair Overeem on Saturday at UFC 156.

Even though the official stoppage came less than 30 seconds into the third round, it somehow looked like Silva took his sweet time once he had Overeem hurt, as if he wanted to savor the moment. By the time referee Herb Dean jumped in to physically restrain him, Bigfoot had already given the erstwhile No. 1 contender to the UFC heavyweight title a few shots for good measure, including one where he appeared to prop Overeem up with his left hand in order to slip in one final right. Even after Dean pulled him off, the Brazilian wanted more, charging back at his prone opponent and shouting things we can only assume were not compliments.

Was it a tad over the line? Maybe, but put yourself in Silva's size-16s, and it's easy to understand the outpouring of emotion.

For years he's been shortchanged as too slow, too plodding and too predictable to compete with the best in MMA. In the wake of his UFC 156 booking, it's even starting to feel like he's the fighter promoters like to call when they need a fall guy for one of their stars. Take a look at his five most recent fights, and it's hard to find one that Bigfoot was actually "supposed" to win.

He fought Fedor Emelianenko in the opening round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, when "The Last Emperor" was coming off his first loss in 10 years and the pre-fight hype mostly concerned the company's efforts to set up a pay-per-view pitting Fedor against Overeem. Then, after the tournament bracket went kablooey, Bigfoot was tabbed to face Daniel Cormier, the hotshot late entry who went on to win the whole thing.

Silva's UFC appearances have been even less auspicious: facing Cain Velasquez in the heavyweight champion's first fight after initially losing the title to Junior dos Santos; taking on Travis Browne in a bout that was supposed to put the Hawaiian on the heavyweight map; and finally, getting the call to serve as the 6-foot-4, 280-pound appetizer to Overeem's run at the title.

For a guy as tough and proud as Silva, his perennial underdog status must sting a bit, and the Overeem situation was likely the most difficult of all. The two were originally slated to fight in the semifinals of the Strikeforce tournament, but then Overeem withdrew (because of a toe injury or because of scheduling conflicts -- it was never clear) and somehow vaulted directly into the Octagon, while Silva was left to languish with the rest in San Jose.

More recently, Overeem displaced him from his normal training camp with Florida's Blackzilians, characterized him as "a big target" during pre-fight interviews and showed him no respect once the bell rang, hanging his hands around his waist as if daring him to take his best shot. None of the six ESPN analysts on our panel picked Silva to win this fight, and after opening as a 2-to-1 underdog, he dropped to 3-to-1 by fight night because nobody else was betting on him, either.

Overeem had been all but preordained as Velasquez's next challenger, the UFC likely already salivating over a big money showdown between the two later this year. Yet, on Saturday night, when the time did come for everybody to throw their best shots, it turned out to be Overeem who couldn't take them.

[+] EnlargeAntonio 'Bigfoot' Silva
Josh Hedges/Getty ImagesDespite his perennial underdog status, Antonio Silva has continued to turn heads with a series of heavyweight upsets.
Hence, Bigfoot losing his cool a little bit there at the end.

Still, we all got the message: Go ahead, shortchange him all you want due to his ponderous style, his recent back-to-back losses or his physical appearance, but you know what he's really bad at?

Being a patsy.

Turns out Silva is a really terrible fall guy.

All those fights Silva was "supposed" to lose during the last couple of years? He won more than he lost. He's 5-3 in his combined UFC/Strikeforce career dating back to 2009 and now has the same number of wins in the Octagon as were going to fetch Overeem a title shot had things gone according to plan.

Silva won't get one, obviously. Somehow, we're still not buying him as one of the UFC's best heavyweights and, anyway, he just lost a bloody, lopsided bout with Velasquez last May.

A rematch certainly wouldn't go any differently. Just like Silva certainly wasn't going to beat Overeem, Browne or Emelianenko.

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