MINNEAPOLIS -- Not so fast, UFC heavyweights.
It was a fight that was meant to further clarify the pecking order in a suddenly deep -- well, deep-ish -- 265 pound division, but “Big Foot”’s emphatic and surprising win might have only muddied the waters. The hulking former EliteXC champion came into this fight off back-to-back losses to Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez and made no bones about the fact this was a must-win for him if he wanted to keep pace in the turbulent heavyweight ranks.
“For me, I knew it was kill or die, and I got the kill,” Silva said at the postfight news conference, after dealing Browne his first career loss.
In the early going it seemed as though Browne’s quickness and mobility might win the day, as he opened up with some confident, flamboyant offense. He threw an overhand right that pushed Silva back and added a spinning kick and then a front kick that showed off the athleticism many thought would give him the edge. That flash may have come at a price, however, as Browne later said he suffered a leg injury during the first striking exchange of the fight.
Roughly three minutes later he stumbled into the cage to avoid a strike from Silva and took a crushing right hand that landed flush on the jaw. Browne dropped, and “Big Foot” followed him down with a barrage of wild lefts, forcing referee Herb Dean to call a stop to the action. After the particulars were announced to the crowd, Browne limped noticeably as he left the cage.
“On the first kick I threw, my left hamstring popped like three times,” he said. “But putting that aside, Big Foot came out and won the fight. I’m not trying to take anything away from the guy. I’ll come back stronger.”
The heavyweight landscape has been somewhat uncertain of late. Suspended No. 1 contender Alistair Overeem likely won’t fight again until 2013 and the UFC has moved to fill the void with a rematch between champion Junior dos Santos and Velasquez at UFC 155. So, until the organization determines exactly where, when and how Overeem will return, there stands to be a handful of fighters all jockeying for a place in line.
It was thought Friday’s bout would make a case for Browne to be included in that group, but it was not to be. On the other hand, where this upset win leaves Silva remains somewhat murky. He was close to a 2-to-1 underdog coming in and had been all but been written off as a serious threat to the upper echelon of UFC heavyweights.
Now, we might have to reevaluate that assessment. Luckily, we’ve got at least a few months to put it all in perspective.
“This was a big fight for the heavyweight division and for these two guys, with Travis being undefeated and Bigfoot looking to get back into the mix,” UFC President Dana White said. “He did that tonight … He saw that [Browne] was hurt and he went in and he finished; he capitalized on it. He looked good tonight.”