Giving up 44 pounds, Mike Kyle defied the odds when he put Brazilian heavyweight Antonio (Bigfoot) Silva down on the canvas 25 seconds into their December 2010 fight in Strikeforce.
Unfortunately he broke his right hand doing so.
Kyle kept punching. He was credited with more than 100 strikes in a first round that Silva somehow survived.
Kyle had given his all. The six-foot-four, 263-pound Brazilian went on to stop him in the second round.
“I was down on myself just because of the fact I mentally gave up,” Kyle recalled. “I just knew once the first round was over and I gave that guy everything I had ... Once my hand broke with the first punch, I started backhanding him and I fractured the other three bones in my hand.
“I went back to the corner and told them I was done. ... I really did give him everything I had and it didn’t hurt him. It kept waking him up. That really took it out of me in the first round mentally.”
Kyle’s battle with Silva — which was his sixth fight of 2010 — typifies his hard-nosed attitude to MMA. A talented striker, Kyle has been forced to battle some hard knocks, bad breaks and broken bones in his fight path.
Kyle (19-5-1) has only fought once since, a decision over Marcos Rogerio de Lima last September, his fight calendar disrupted by the broken hand and other injuries.
On Saturday, the 32-year-old Kyle returns to the cage when he takes on Brazilian light-heavyweight Rafael (Feijao) Cavalcante (11-3) on a Strikeforce card in his home town of San Jose.
Josh (The War Master) Barnett (31-5) meets Daniel (DC) Cormier (9-0) in the main event, the final of Strikeforce’s heavyweight Grand Prix.
Kyle already holds a win over Feijao, back in 2009. He took that fight on three weeks notice and came in as a big underdog.
“It’s a really good opportunity to show everybody that it wasn’t a fluke,” he said of the rematch. “That I really am a top contender and that I should be having a title shot.”
Now healthy and fighting at 205 pounds, the six-foot-two Kyle is even thinking of going further down to middleweight (185). He believes that’s possible thanks to a good diet and consistent training, as opposed to slacking off between fights.
These days he walks around at 210 to 215 pounds.
Kyle points to a list of Silva opponents like Fedor Emelianenko and Cormier, who broke their hands against the hard-headed Brazilian. He has warned American Kickboxing Academy training partner Cain Velasquez, who fights Silva next at UFC 146, to use his wrestling rather than risk his hands.
After Silva, Kyle took his cast off a week early to train for a bout with Gegard Mousasi. He rebroke the hand a week before the fight.
Once again he minimized his time off and broke the hand again when he returned to sparring. “Just throwing a light punch,” he lamented. “I hit King Mo (Lawal) on the top of the head.”
He took the cast off just three weeks before his fight with Lima. He didn’t throw a single right hand in training.
When it came down to the fight, it happened again.
“Sure enough, the second combination — the first time my right hand landed — it broke. But I had mentally prepared for that because I was training for two months just using my left hand, throwing hooks and jabs.”
Kyle said financially he had no choice but to fight Lima.
“I couldn’t turn down the fight. I mentally prepared myself to fight with one hand and so that’s what I did. It’s kind of a hard thing to do.”
He punished Lima in the early going and seemed destined for an early win. But the resilient Brazilian kept coming, throwing nasty leg kicks.
“Oh man, that guy was tough,” said Kyle, who recalled seeing his opponent cut weight before the bout.
“That guy’s legs and his butt and his thighs were just humongous compared to mine.”
Healthy again — his hand has survived training camp — Kyle believes this is his time to make his mark.
“I’ve been fighting at this sport for a long time. Now I’ve finally put all my tools together and I’ve put in the right time, the right work. I’ve trained hard, I’ve got the right diet now. I’m not out partying in the clubs, and running around doing the wrong things. Now I’m really dedicated (to succeed) before this sport passes me by.”