What do you like about this great sport?
You were in luck on Saturday, because UFC Fight Night pretty much had it all. Fight fans who got their weekend started with an unusually strong ESPN Friday Night Fights in Chicago saw the momentum carry right on through as ZUFFA visited Boston. This first installment on Fox Sports One delivered at every turn: plenty of star power, some rising talent, hard-hitting knockouts, a submission or two, and pretty memorable action from bell to bell.
But for this observer at least, one performance stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Sure, there were plenty to choose from — in the main event, Chael Sonnen scored a rare submission victory over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. It was definitely a solid win when many were writing Sonnen off. Some even described it as beating Rua at his own game. But, maybe not: that guillotine seems the great equalizer of submissions. Sonnen’s old Team Quest teammate Matt Lindland accomplished the same feat against a much more established jiu-jitsu black belt in Travis Lutter back in 2005, and Rua is more of a striker anyway. It wasn’t that big a surprise here.
But Travis “Hapa” Browne taking Alistair Overeem’s best, gutting through it, and coming back to score a magnificent front kick/punches on the ground knockout? That was the moment I’ll remember.
It started about as expected. Fighters walk to the cage, and Bruce Buffer does his usual introductions. He fails to pronounce Travis Browne’s nickname “Hapa” properly and I’d guess he has no idea what it means. (In case you don’t either, it means “half” in the Hawaiian language and is a nod to Browne’s mixed ethnic origins.)
Then, well no, then we saw more of what we expected from the fight. Overeem dominated the action, scoring at range and in the clinch as many of us expected. The same sublime technique I gushed over from Overeem’s fellow Dutch kickboxing standout Germaine de Randamie in her UFC debut against Julie Kedzie last month was on display. Except, this time it was powered by a 265 lb. “Demolition Man” and not the 135 lb. “Iron Lady.”
But something unexpected happened. The big man from Oahu took every shot and just kept coming. It recalled the old days of Browne’s fellow Hawaii native Wesley “Cabbage” Correira — but Browne would show skills light years beyond. A varied striking attack put Overeem on his back heel, and a front kick to the face put him down for good, where a series of punches finished the job.
What did we learn from the upset? I think we learned, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that “Hapa” is a legitimate contender. We learned he can take a hell of a shot and keep coming.
But most of all, we know that offered co-main event status on a major show, he gave us a performance and a half. MMA’s best division looks better every day, and this past weekend Travis Browne shined bright.