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Bigfoot earned Saturday’s title match, but to the public, is it enough?

On Saturday night, when Antonio Bigfoot Silva goes into the cage as the challenger for UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, there will be something completely different from every other title match contender on pay-per-view this year. He will have won his last match with the promotion. As silly as this sounds, the last title contender on pay-per-view to get his hand raised in his previous match with the company was Velasquez himself, coming off his win over Silva to earn his shot at Junior Dos Santos, at the end of 2012. Frankie Edgar got his featherweight title shot at Jose Aldo Jr., on Feb. 2, coming off two straight losses in lightweight title matches to Benson Henderson, even if the majority of people seemed to think he won the second. Liz Carmouche got her title shot at Ronda Rousey coming off wins on Invicta shows, but her previous match under Zuffa’s auspices, with Sarah Kaufman on a Strikeforce show, was a decision loss. Nick Diaz got his title shot at welterweight Georges St-Pierre coming off a loss to Carlos Condit and a drug suspension. And Chael Sonnen got his shot at light heavyweight Jon Jones coming off a second-round stoppage loss to middleweight champion Anderson Silva. That minor detail hasn’t seemed to matter much to UFC fans, or management. Dana White has long said that they are in the business of making the matches that people want to see. Edgar was the most marketable opponent available at that time for Aldo. Carmouche was not the most marketable for Rousey, nor was she the first choice for that fight, but it worked out well anyway. With the benefit of hindsight, not only was Diaz the most marketable opponent for St-Pierre that was possible on that day, but short of a champion vs. champion superfight, it’s doubtful any UFC bout this year will create as much interest as that fight had. Although nobody will ever know for sure, most likely Sonnen did more business against Jones than anyone who would have been available last month, although the fight probably would have done better with more antagonistic promotion and if the public really thought Sonnen had a chance to win. But an sometimes indifferent Jones and a subdued Sonnen were still Muhammad Ali and The Rock when it comes to promotional ability next to Velasquez and Silva. I think that great fighters need to train and show their talent and skill inside the cage, not outside, said Silva through interpreter Ana Claudia. I think that fighters like Junior Dos Santos, Cain, these are skilled fighters. They show what they have inside the cage. They train. They fight. In my opinion, the less you talk, the better. And it also doesn’t seem to matter that in his last fight on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas, that Silva brutally knocked out Alistair Overeem, a heavy favorite, who hadn’t lost an MMA fight since late 2007. Unlike other recent title challengers, Silva decisively beat the top contender to get the match. There are no complaints from any direction regarding the validity or credibility of this match. Yet, it doesn’t seem like people talking about this fight at anywhere near the same level as the previous three pay-per-view main events. With the combination of the heavyweight title and Velasquez’s appeal to the Hispanic fan base should lead to the show doing above the UFC average number. Still, there seems to be more talk and interest surrounding the No. 2 bout on the show, involving heavyweight sluggers Junior Dos Santos (15-2 with 11 knockouts) and Mark Hunt (9-7 with eight knockouts). That fight has the ominous specter of a major knockout between guys with both proven power, and proven chins. Hunt’s record isn’t the best because his ground skills were minimal for much of his career, and he’s nearly 40, and looks overweight. But he can take a punch like nobody’s business, and can knock anyone out spectacularly. There are two issues involved with Velasquez and Silva. The first is Velasquez is naturally shy, and isn’t going to say a lot to generate headlines. Silva is not going to be the one to take up the slack unless he’s insulted first. It’s simply not in either man’s DNA. With his giant hands, feet and head, Silva is almost the living incarnation of a cartoon character, the friendly, somewhat slow-moving giant who is dangerous when angered. He showed that fury in the closing moments of the Overeem fight, no doubt motivated by his perception Overeem slighted him in the past and didn’t give him enough credit as an opponent. Not that he won’t be every bit as aggressive to finish if he can get Velasquez hurt, and he has but there are no signs in either competitor of a boiling over explosive rage that works wonders in garnering late interest. Velasquez is hardly going to come across arrogant or dismissive of his skills and speed, like Overeem was. Silva understands more and more English, but is polite and careful with what he says. The second issue, perhaps more important, is this is the second meeting between the two. The problem isn’t Velas…

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