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."
His goal is to fight two to four more years and then try his hand at coaching or managing —"pick up some of these young guys and make them champions, because I know what it takes."
The Strikeforce title is vacant, with Dan Henderson having moved over to the UFC. Saturday's fight should help eliminate one of the 205-pound contenders.
Mousasi could be his next opponent.
Kyle says the Armenian-Dutch fighter turned down a chance to fight him on this card. His rationale was that Kyle had twice pulled out of previous fights.
"Which is a bullcrap excuse, but it has some truth to it," he said, citing his broken hand and a staph infection in the wake of unrelated surgery.
"I was just happy that Feijao stepped in and took the fight with me," said Kyle.
He reckons Mousasi showed some smarts, if not much character, in avoiding him. He may get to fight for the title next, rather than meet Kyle for the No. 1 contender position.
Kyle started fighting at 17 while still in high school at Boise, Idaho.
He had short stints playing fullback at Butte College in Chico, Calif., and Eastern Oregon before focusing on fighting back in Idaho. His first break was an invitation to fight in King of the Cage promotion against Dan Bobish in May 2002.
It was his fourth fight — and first loss — but he did well enough to get asked back to fight Paul Buentello that November.
Kyle, whose early training regimen contained little more than working on the stairmaster and "a little bit of Tae Bo."
For Buentello, he started taking training more seriously and cut his weight to 240 pounds from 268. He started out well but gassed it in the second and was knocked out.
His performance earned him a call from well-known trainer (Crazy) Bob Cook, who invited him to come to California to train, Kyle took the chance and moved to San Diego, joining Josh Thompson in the first wave at American Kickboxing Academy.
He had one last flirtation with football, when the 49ers invited him to a spring camp, which he says just reinforced that he preferred fighting.
Three straight wins earned him an invitation first to the WEC and then the UFC. He fought at UFC 47, 59 and 51, going 2-1 before moving onto a slew of other organizations including Strikeforce.
There has been controversy along the way.
In May 2006, he was disqualified in a WEC bout when he lashed out at a downed Brian Olsen with a soccer kick and had to be dragged off his opponent by a couple of officials. It resulted in an 18-month ban.
Kyle says the kick happened because he had been training in Croatia with Mirko (Cro Cop) Filipovic for a fight in Pride, which allows such soccer kicks. Some months before, he had also competed in Pancrase, which also has more lenient rules.
Kyle also admits a red mist descended on him.
"I saw the blood and I just kept going. I was wrong, I learned for it. ... I paid the consequences."
He was suspended for 18 months, although he says the incident actually kept him away for fighting for two and a half years.
After he beat Wes Sims at UFC 47 in April 2004, Sims accused him of biting him on the chest.
Kyle pleads innocence on that count.
"He actually kind of did it to himself," said Kyle. "He was doing a choke move and I inhaled his boob because he had a lot of fat on him. That's why he didn't complain about it right away because he was using it to choke me ...
"If I had bit him, he would have been like 'hey, he's biting me or something.' He didn't say nothing until after I knocked him out."
Now engaged with a baby girl — he has two sons back in Idaho with his ex-wife —Kyle wants to make the most of the remaining fight years. He also hopes organizations like Strikeforce, which is owned by the UFC, will opt to help fighters by matching funds in a retirement plan.
"I'm still renting a house. I don't own a house yet. It's a scary situation. In a few years I don't want to be left holding nothing and (having) given my whole life and my body all beat up and not walking, giving up my body for nothing."
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