MMA: Travis Browne

The Reem fans were waiting for arrives

February, 2, 2014
Feb 2
12:46
PM ET
By Mike Huang
ESPN.com
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You could see it in their faces. The difference in damage, that is.

With an impressive unanimous decision over Frank Mir at UFC 169 on Saturday, heavyweight Alistair Overeem fought for his UFC life and perhaps salvaged his standing in the sport of mixed martial arts.

In a battle reminiscent of Mir’s punishing 2009 loss to Brock Lesnar at UFC 100, Overeem pummeled Mir relentlessly while standing and on the ground. Overeem’s strategy was clear: be more efficient with his striking and push Mir against the cage to use his size and weight to smother Mir in front of a crowd of 14,308 at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Even when Overeem had top control over Mir just on the periphery of the circle, he would methodically push Mir toward the cage, where Mir sat powerless against Overeem’s massive leverage. This technique effectively rendered Mir’s jiu-jitsu inert, as Overeem would sit squarely on Mir’s upper body while raining down punches and elbows and staying clear of Mir’s legs and hips.

It had the look of a schoolyard bully taking a kid’s lunch money. The result was Mir’s face bashed to a pulp, highlighted by a massive hematoma above his right eye.
[+] EnlargeFrank Mir vs. Alistair Overeem
Ed Mulholland for ESPNAlistair Overeem paced himself in a strategic win over a hapless Frank Mir.

Overeem, on the other hand, looked immaculate and rather fresh by the end of the fight. Indeed there was something very different about this Alistair Overeem. His strikes were surgical and precise, he wasted little movement in stalking Mir around the Octagon and his conditioning was noticeably improved since his losses to Travis Browne and Antonio Silva in 2013.

“It’s been a while, yeah. For me it’s been a long year,” Overeem said. “I just never stopped training. Basically 10 months straight. So I’m going to enjoy a nice, long holiday. It feels great to be back on the winning track in the UFC.”

Further, even Overeem’s supreme confidence in his abilities seemed muted with a tinge of humility. He paid homage to Mir shortly after his fight.

“Frank is one of those fighters who stays dangerous to the end,” Overeem said. “I felt he was searching for a submission. And that’s his strength. He looks like he’s damaged, rocked. Goes down and you dive on him and unload and suddenly you’re in a leg lock. That’s why I kept [him under] control.

This new version of Overeem now resembles the world-class mixed martial artist UFC fans figured they would see upon his arrival in the league in 2011. His debut win over a shell of Lesnar at UFC 141 proved little and didn’t fully showcase his array of kickboxing and grappling skills. However, against Mir, it was all on display -- the combinations, stiff jabs, huge overhand rights, knee and leg strikes.

Presumably, this renewed, well-conditioned and focused version of Overeem has staved off notions that he teetered on the brink of being cut from the UFC. Overeem’s titanic size and personality bolsters the UFC’s heavyweight division, which is currently light on both. He remains a draw, and his dismantling of Mir could be the catalyst for a fast rise up the heavyweight rankings. But don’t expect him to drop any weight.

“What you do is you look at who you are fighting and you adjust,” Overeem said. “Obviously Brock was a big guy so you want to pack on a little bit more muscle. But if you look at the top of the division, Cain [Velasquez] -- 240 [pounds] -- I might drop some, but I’m big. If drop too much, it’s not going to be good.”

Meanwhile, Mir looks as if he could be finished in the UFC. The loss to Overeem marked his fourth straight defeat -- once again in overwhelming fashion. To be sure, Mir has run a veritable gauntlet of heavyweights over the last two years, falling to Josh Barnett, Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos.

Still Mir, who turns 35 in May, might have seen better days. The longtime veteran has fought in the UFC since 2001, but most believe this could have been Mir’s swan song.

For Overeem, perhaps consider this an upgrade. He called out Lesnar in his postfight interview, but said he was interested in anyone the UFC puts in front of him, including dos Santos.

“I proved to everybody I’m back tonight. Frank is a very experienced fighter, his game plan was to take me down, but I’m a well-rounded fighter, too, so I dominated him,” Overeem said. “This victory has motivated me a lot to go back to the gym and get ready for fighting again.”

Win or lose, Mir won't retire at UFC 169

January, 28, 2014
Jan 28
11:06
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Frank Mir and Daniel CormierJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesDespite a recent three-fight losing streak, Frank Mir believes the hardships have made him stronger.
LAS VEGAS -- Frank Mir says he has no plans of retiring in Newark.

Mir (16-8) will try to end a three-fight losing streak when he meets Alistair Overeem during the main card of UFC 169 on Saturday at the Prudential Center.

Regardless of the outcome, Mir, 34, says he can't even fathom this fight could be his last, and he's less than convinced the UFC would cut ties with him should he lose.

The former heavyweight champ is comfortable heading into the matchup, despite his recent skid. In fact, he views his losing streak differently than some others.

"I kind of know no matter what, it's not going to be my last fight," Mir told ESPN.com. "I'm still younger than a lot of the guys in the division.

"There are two ways I would consider retirement. One is losing to guys who are not top-level competition. The other is if I started losing where it's like, 'OK man, you were knocked out viciously and staring at the rafters.' I won't endanger my health."

Mir is steadfast in his belief that neither of those scenarios is currently playing out. He still shakes his head at referee Rob Hinds' decision to stop his most recent bout against Josh Barnett in the first round at UFC 164 after he absorbed a knee along the fence.

The other two losses -- to Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos -- were disappointing for Mir, but not inexcusable. And in no way evidence that his career is over.

"I'm sorry if those three losses aren't killing my ego," Mir said. "Let's see, the losing streak started with Junior dos Santos, the No. 1 heavyweight in the world at the time. Then I lost to Cormier in a pretty boring fight and then to Barnett, which to me was a no-contest because the fight had a very controversial stoppage.

"Look at who I've fought. I should retire? Wow. We'd only have five guys in every weight class, because everybody else would need to retire."

[+] EnlargeJosh Barnett
Ross Dettman for ESPNFrank Mir openly disagrees with referee Rob Hinds' decision to stop his fight against Josh Barnett.
As far as his health goes, Mir is even less concerned. He has been on the receiving end of seven knockout losses in his career, but he swears he was not "badly hurt" in the most recent one to Barnett.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission requested Mir undergo additional brain tests for precautionary reasons last year when the UFC initially wanted to book his fight against Overeem at UFC 167 in November.

Mir agreed and says he passed every exam with no issues, although the fight was eventually moved to February anyway.

The delay actually produced several benefits, none bigger than the addition of former UFC heavyweight James McSweeney (12-11) to Mir's camp. McSweeney, who fights out of Las Vegas, has trained alongside Overeem in the past.

"McSweeney is a guy who was trained by the same trainer as Alistair," Mir said. "I really don't think I could find a better person to simulate him."

In addition to McSweeney, Travis Browne (16-1-1) was a part-time presence in Mir's camp. He was in Las Vegas for the final week of preparations before Mir flew to Newark. Browne (16-1-1) knocked out Overeem at UFC Fight Night 26 in August.

Like Mir, Overeem (36-13) is also battling a losing streak, having been stopped in consecutive fights by Antonio Silva and Browne. But as far as an opponent to try and bounce back against, Mir says he hasn't exactly been given a gimme fight.

That can be a problem when you're a former champion who sells tickets. A nice easy win over a no-name opponent might have been a good way to boost confidence. Mir claims, however, he's happy the UFC never steered him that way. The losses have made him grow as a martial artist.

"I prefer this route that I've taken," Mir said. "These hardships have made me stronger."

Browne recalls first pro fight in Tijuana

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
11:18
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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Travis BrowneAl Powers for ESPNTravis Browne's most harrowing MMA experience might have come in his very first pro bout.
Travis Browne is not the least bit rattled heading into the biggest fight of his career -- a high-profile heavyweight tilt against Josh Barnett at UFC 168 on Saturday.

Truthfully, the circumstances surrounding his first fight were far more intimidating.

Browne (15-1-1) has come a long way since February 2009, when he made his professional debut for a promotion named Cage of Fire in Tijuana, Mexico.

It was the best opportunity Browne’s management could find at the time. He would open the show as part of the very first prelim, for which the promotion would pay him $250 to show plus a potential $250 win bonus.

Monetary compensation was really the least of Browne’s concerns. At the time, Tijuana was caught up in frequent turmoil, as U.S. and Mexican officials were cracking down on the city’s drug cartels.

Browne, who moved to San Diego from Hawaii, had read several unpleasant news reports coming out of the area where the event would be held.

“They were pushing to get the drugs out of Tijuana,” Browne said. “Cartels were hanging cops from bridges and shooting tourists walking down the street.”

Browne eventually agreed to do the fight. The promotion offered to put him up in a Tijuana hotel the day of the weigh-in, but he declined; the less time in “TJ,” he thought, the better.

On Feb. 6, 2009, the day of the weigh-in, Browne parked his car on the U.S. border and walked into Mexico. He took a 20-minute cab ride to a high school-size theater, placing his sports bag against the window along the way so people couldn't see in.

There was no drug testing for the event, Browne said, only a piece of paper that stated he wouldn't legally go after the promotion if he suffered injury.

At least, he thought, he wasn't facing a local fighter. He didn't want a Tijuana crowd cheering against him. That was one of really only two requests he had in terms of an opponent: Avoid locals and giant Samoans.

“I had told my manager I’d fight anyone, just try not to get a Samoan for my first fight,” Browne said. “I fought those kinds of guys growing up in Hawaii and dude, they are ruthless.”

Upon arriving at the weigh-in, Browne met his opponent, Evan Langford -- a 290-pound Polynesian.

“I was like, ‘Ah fricken-ay,'” Browne said.

The day of the fight, Browne repeated the process -- parking at the border and taking a cab to the auditorium. He was the first fighter to walk out that night, before a crowd of perhaps, “a couple thousand people.”

Two of his strongest memories of the night involve smells. The hallway he walked out of, big enough for just one person to walk through, smelled of bleach and ammonia. The concrete flooring appeared to have been freshly soaked with both.

When he walked into the arena, it smelled like smoke. Whether that was from the crowd or the surprising pyrotechnics used in production, Browne doesn't know.

The fight itself lasted 43 seconds. Browne dropped Langford immediately with a left hook and eventually finished it via TKO, landing a left head kick in the final seconds.

Promotion officials invited Browne and his team to stay in Mexico for the night and attend after-parties -- Browne respectfully grabbed his paycheck and bounced.

“As soon as I got my money, I bailed,” Browne said. “They were like, 'Come by the “Coko Bongo” Mega Nightclub afterward,' and I was like, ‘Yeah, for sure. I’m just going to get something to eat.’ We took off.”

Browne said his friend owned a bus he had renovated into a “party bus” of sorts. He picked Browne up from the fight and drove straight back to the U.S. In terms of a celebration, Browne said they caught dinner at Applebees and that was it.

Twenty days later, he fought again at a casino in Highland, Calif. He crammed seven fights into 2009 and signed a contract with the UFC in 2010.

This weekend’s bout against Barnett will likely go a long way in determining the division’s next No. 1 contender. Browne said he hasn't been told specifically what’s next for the winner, but believes it will be a date with Fabricio Werdum.

“I read something that Dana [White] was saying he wants the winner of me and Barnett to fight Werdum for the No. 1 spot and I agree with that,” Browne said.

Seems like a high-pressure situation, for sure -- but Browne, as we all know, doesn't rattle easy.

Browne continues to add wrinkles to game

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
7:03
AM ET
Huang By Michael Huang
ESPN.com
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Alistair Overeem and Travis BrowneEd Mulholland for ESPNTravis Browne, left, endured tense moments and hellacious strikes before taking out Alistair Overeem.
Travis Browne probably isn’t the first opponent to describe the knees of Alistair Overeem thusly:

“[Overeem] had heat-seeking ability in those knees,” Browne said. “He’s always had devastating knees.”

Indeed, Browne survived a vicious 40-second tirade of strikes and knees from the former Strikeforce and K-1 heavyweight champion and came back to knock out Overeem in the first round at UFC Fight Night 26 on Aug. 17.

It was a gutsy performance by Browne, who, compared to most UFC fighters, is a relative latecomer to MMA, having taken up the sport professionally in 2009 and only first stepped foot in a jiu-jitsu dojo at 25.

Six years later, the 31-year-old is on the cusp of becoming the No. 1 contender for the UFC heavyweight title, if he can defeat veteran and former UFC champ Josh Barnett at UFC 168 on Dec. 28. The winner will face Fabricio Werdum for the next title shot when champion Cain Velasquez returns from injury.

As he was against Overeem, Browne is once again a decided underdog at plus-170 odds, according to most MMA betting websites. But Browne is used to that and doesn’t sweat it.

“I don’t have a combat sports background, so I’ll always be the underdog,” Browne said. “I want to be the best and fight the best. But people who know will tell you I’m just a big softie. I’m more of a lover than a fighter.”

And who doesn’t love an underdog?

Hawaiian heritage


Browne is half Hawaiian, and his nickname “Hapa” literally means “half.” Browne says his middle name, Kuualiialoha, means “Prince of Love” in Hawaiian. And while the literal translation from a Hawaiian-English dictionary might suggest something more along the lines of “beloved child,” either way Browne holds his Hawaiian heritage dear to him as a symbol of his compassion, as well as his warrior pride.

Raised in Hawaii until he was 10, Browne learned to swim, surf and do anything but fight. He dabbled in a little karate, but he admits he was an “emotional kid.”

“I cried a lot,” he laughed.

Sadly, his parents’ divorce took him and his mother to San Diego where he eventually developed into a standout basketball player. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, Browne dominated his local competition and had offers to play some smaller schools and even semi-pro leagues overseas.

“I had good quickness to play a big 3 or small 4, maybe even the 2 at times, depending on the lineup. I could play on the perimeter or down low. I was a strong kid and liked the contact.”

I told my buddy 'show me how you do [jiu-jitsu]', and he put me in an armbar. I was hooked and just became obsessed with it.

-- Travis Browne, on his start in mixed martial arts

After one season at Palomar College, Browne gave up the hard court and took to the mats. On a whim, a buddy convinced him to try jiu-jitsu.

“I told my buddy, 'Show me how you do [jiu-jitsu],' and he put me in an armbar,” Browne said. “I was hooked and just became obsessed with it.”

Browne began in at Oceanside’s North County Fight Club, the starting point for fellow UFC heavyweight Joey Beltran. After the fight club disbanded, Browne landed at Alliance MMA for a while and developed his wrestling and muay Thai skills. It wasn’t until he joined Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn’s gym in Albuquerque, N.M., however, that Browne’s career took off.

Browne’s laid-back style and warrior spirit is a juxtaposition that fits in well with the Zen-like atmosphere of Jackson and Winklejohn’s.

“It was the perfect fit for me,” Browne said. “They encourage creativity and teach you to believe in yourself, your skills. The coaches are on board with experimenting with different things. So I asked Winklejohn to teach me a new skill for Barnett.”

“Heat-seeking knees” was the response.

“I try to do different stuff for every camp,” Browne said. “Always add something you can use. Train smarter, harder.”

He will have to first get through Barnett, a grizzled 16-year MMA veteran who has fought wars in nearly every fight league that’s existed -- Pride, Pancrase, Affliction, Dream, Sengoku, Strikeforce -- and held the UFC heavyweight title in 2002 after defeating Randy Couture.

Barnett is an oppressive grappler, with 20 wins by a multitude of submissions. He also is a devastating striker, as evidenced by his most recent demolition of Frank Mir at UFC 164. In many ways, Barnett contrasts with Browne like day and night. If Browne is a lover and a fighter, the fighter part will have his work cut out for him.

At 6-foot-7, Browne’s length and 79-inch reach gives him some safe distance to gauge Barnett’s striking. However, in the clinch there are few better than Barnett. That’s fine with Browne.

“I want to be the best and fight the best. I have momentum now,” Browne said. “To stop me, my opponent is going to have to finish me to win.”

Frank Mir outclassed by Josh Barnett

September, 1, 2013
9/01/13
1:03
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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MILWAUKEE -- The timing couldn’t have been worse for former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. He lost to fellow former heavyweight titleholder Josh Barnett in the co-main event Saturday night at UFC 164.

It’s not just that Mir was the victim of a first-round TKO -- the stoppage was a bit premature. It’s that Mir has now lost three in a row, and wasn’t competitive in any of those fights.

Making matters more unfortunate for Mir is that the loss comes against a fighter who hadn’t competed inside the Octagon since 2002. Barnett is still a good fighter, but other than Daniel Cormier, he hadn’t faced top-level opposition of late.

This was the type of fight Mir was supposed to win, or at least be competitive in -- he did neither. Barnett punched him, kneed him and pushed him around. At no time in this brief encounter, which came to an end at the 1:56 mark, did Mir pose the slightest threat to Barnett.

Mir was simply outclassed in his third straight fight. And at 34, and showing little sign of improving, his future as a heavyweight to be taken seriously appears to have run its course.

Never in his professional mixed martial arts career had Mir dropped three fights in a row. If ever there was a worse time to experience such a drought, this was it. And at 34 years old, the odds of Mir rebounding from this hole to get back in title contention are slim.

What Mir has to fight for now isn’t a title shot; that option isn’t reasonable. His goal today is finishing his career on a positive note. It’s about getting wins, even if they must come against second-tier fighters.

It felt great to get this win here in the UFC. It's been a long time coming.

-- Josh Barnett on beating Frank Mir in his return to the UFC.
He may no longer be title-worthy, but Mir has achieved enough inside UFC to retain his spot on the promotion’s roster. No one should, for one second, think Mir will be released by UFC. It won’t happen and it shouldn’t.

But his name should not even be considered for another co-main event as participants are being bantered about by matchmaker Joe Silva. This isn’t a knock on Mir, especially when he is down -- it’s just facing reality.

Mir looks slow in the cage these days, even with the improved physical conditioning he’s been receiving under the guidance of Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M. And Mir deserves credit for taking the extra step to train in Albuqurque, spending weeks away from his family in Las Vegas.

The determination to succeed remains. It’s just that Mir is struggling to find a way to do so in today’s UFC.

Barnett, on the other hand, shouldn’t be pumping his chest too hard. He had the good fortune to catch Mir on the down side of his career. Regardless, competing and winning in the Octagon for the first time in years had Barnett in a jovial mood.

“It felt great to get this win here in the UFC,” Barnett said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

The best time to gauge where Barnett truly stands at this point in his MMA career will be in his next fight. Hopefully, it will be against a fighter on the upswing.

Travis Browne comes to mind. Byt hat might be stretching it a bit. How about Ben Rothwell, who showed tremendous resolve in his come-from-behind, third-round TKO of Brandon Vera in an earlier main-card bout.

Browne kicks door open for title fight

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
11:14
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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Hope, faint as it was in the moment Travis Browne found it, emerged in the form of a front kick.

Things had gone all wrong until he snapped off that gut-deflating kick to Alistair Overeem's midsection. Browne, 31, allowed Overeem the boost of confidence, which is just about the worst thing a person can do if they're fighting the Dutch banger. No matter what people think about Overeem in the wake of his drug issues and now, back-to-back knockout losses in the Octagon, he can still punch and hit and knee with devastating results.

And for the first half of the first round, Overeem did just that against Browne, who absorbed so much punishment it easily could be used as the counterclaim to the idea that heavyweights can't take more than one punch and survive. We know that's not true because Randy Couture showed it against Pedro Rizzo the same way Brock Lesnar did against Shane Carwin. Those were tremendous comebacks, each unique in their way. So was Browne's rally against Overeem.

The front kick appeared out of thin air. But that's what Browne wanted to do all along, it just took him suffering through a tentative start and subsequent beating to get there.

After finally managing to stand and shake off the assault from a 265-pound threat, Browne told himself he wasn't going down again. Nope, instead, he expected to kick Overeem in the stomach. And if that went well, maybe the face.

"I just felt him hitting me so I knew I needed to get up and get back to work," the 6-foot-7 Hawaiian said.

The front kick became part of the game plan because the brains at Greg Jackson's camp found Overeem's "common denominator for what he did and some of his openings," Browne said.

It was the way in which Overeem held his elbows too far out, Browne said. That led the group to think Overeem could be susceptible.

Brown flinched at the start of the fight. He backed away from Overeem's aggression, which only spurred on more attacks. For that he paid a hefty price, but it hadn't been enough. And when that first kick landed, Browne felt new life. Hope. So he kicked again. It landed. Overeem paused. Browne moved forward. Kicks were aimed at the head, and they landed, too. Finally, one connected with power, and Overeem hit the canvas.

"I kept going back to it and as he kept dropping his elbows further and further," he said, "that's when I saw the opening to the head and I took it."

Browne boasted that Overeem learned what his training partners are too familiar with.

"You can ask just about any of my training partners at Jackson's, because I've hit everybody with that shot," he said. "And they've all pretty much went down."

The win pushed Browne to 15-1-1. His lone loss: a technical knockout against Antonio Silva after popping a hamstring early in the fight. Knockout wins against Gabriel Gonzaga in April and now Overeem make Browne look like a force in the division. ESPN.com currently ranks Browne at No. 9, and he's in line to move up.

Browne said he'd like a fight with Fabricio Werdum (ranked No. 3), who has won three in a row over Roy Nelson, Mike Russow and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Many feel Werdum has done enough to merit a title shot, and the Brazilian's trainer, Rafael Cordeiro, told ESPN.com that their intention is to wait for a five-round fight.

Said Browne: "I've never said 'no' to a fight and I've always been ready for anything they've thrown my way.

"It's definitely not out of the question."

Based on his effort so far, neither is a championship.

Overeem 'likes' to fly under the radar

August, 15, 2013
8/15/13
5:53
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Alistair OvereemJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesAlistair Overeem enjoys not being the center of attention during the press conference.
Hard-hitting Alistar Overeem, who is ranked fifth among heavyweights by ESPN.com, hasn’t been getting much attention leading into his Saturday night bout in Boston against Travis Browne.

Overeem sat on the podium for nearly 30 minutes Thursday during a pre-UFC Fight Night 26 media conference as other fighters slated to compete at the event answered questions about their upcoming bouts. For the guy once considered a shoo-in to land a title shot, Overeem wasn’t even an afterthought.

It wasn’t difficult to notice the lack of media interest. But if Overeem felt any disrespect he immediately quashed that notion when a question was finally addressed to him. In fact, he welcomed the snub.

“I kind of actually like [being ignored] a little bit,” Overeem said. “I don’t have to fake it too much. I can just observe it.

“I’m paying attention to the new rising stars. And that’s fine with me, for today.”

While Overeem is enjoying his time away from the spotlight, he immediately made it clear that things will return to normal quickly. Without going into detail, Overeem plans to make a statement against Browne.

“I assume [the attention] is going to pick up after this fight,” Overeem said. “I expect it to pick up after this fight.”

With lots of fanfare surrounding his arrival in UFC, the former Strikeforce champion seemed headed toward a title shot with current promotion heavyweight titleholder Cain Velasquez. But a third-round knockout loss to Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva on Feb. 2 at UFC 156 derailed Overeem’s title quest.

He now sits behind Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum and Daniel Cormier in the heavyweight contender pecking order. An impressive win Saturday night over Browne, however, is sure to get Overeem back in the title conversation.

And that is exactly what Overeem is seeking to accomplish, whether anyone is currently paying attention or not.

RUA NOT TAKING SONNEN’S BRAZIL REMARKS PERSONAL

Middleweight contender Chael Sonnen never shies away from making his harsh feelings about Brazil and its fighters known. He’s directed several strong words toward former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, and recently has targeted former Pride titleholder Wanderlei Silva.
Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua and Chael Sonnen
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesChael Sonnen has nothing but the ultimate respect for Mauricio Rua.

His opponent Saturday night is former UFC light heavyweight titleholder Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, a Brazil native and close friend of Wanderlei’s. But Sonnen has shown no interest in disparaging Rua.

On the contrary, Sonnen has expressed respect for the man whom he will face in the light heavyweight main event. And Rua, obviously, has taken notice.

“The only thing that bothers me is when he talks about my country and my friend Wanderlei,” Rua said. “But I’ve tried not to get too involved in that. I’ve tried to keep my focus on my training and make sure that I am 100 percent ready for the fight.”

After the fight, win or lose, Sonnen is returning to 185 pounds. He has lost two fights in a row, both at light heavyweight.

UFC in Boston primer: Rua's last stand?

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
1:33
PM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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UFC Fight Night 26 suffers from the same ailment nearly every UFC card will suffer from the rest of the year: It's not UFC 168 … or 167 … or 166.

Chris Weidman versus Anderson Silva is a fighting fan's Christmas. Georges St-Pierre versus Johny Hendricks is Thanksgiving. And Cain Velasquez versus Junior dos Santos III will feel like a second birthday to us all this year.

Chael Sonnen versus Mauricio Rua this weekend at TD Garden in Boston sort of feels like Flag Day in comparison.

But that said, there's a lot to like about Flag Day. Top to bottom, this is one of the stronger UFC cards fans will witness this year. Some events are structured around one fight and one fight only. Boston, on the other hand, features plenty to watch for.

FIVE STORYLINES


The legend of Conor McGregor

We are all getting way too carried away about McGregor -- but it's impossible not to. Simplest way to put it: When McGregor fights, you want to watch, and when he talks, you want to listen. It's not just that he's entertaining; he has this contagious passion about what he does. During a recent visit to Las Vegas, McGregor said he was so excited he stayed up shadowboxing in his hotel room until 5 a.m. He's in a hurry to be at the top, and Max Holloway wants to slow him down.

The curious case of Uriah Hall

You hear all the time how important the mental aspect is in martial arts. Hall has shown he has the physical tools, and on the surface, nothing seems out of sorts for him mentally. But that loss to Kelvin Gastelum in The Ultimate Fighter Finale was awkward. His team said he liked Gastelum too much to hurt him. Many of those watching called it cockiness. Neither is really an acceptable excuse for a fighter as talented as Hall. Expectations are high for him against John Howard.

The resurgence of Mike Brown

Brown hasn't really been under the spotlight for years, but for longtime martial arts observers he'll always be a name that jumps off the page. Two wins over Urijah Faber in the WEC put him on the map, but truth is Brown was just one of those guys who was always fun to watch. Something went wrong along the way, and the now 37-year-old endured a 2-4 stretch amid rumors of distractions in his personal life. He's back on a two-fight win streak coming into this fight against Steve Siler.

[+] EnlargeUrijah Faber
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comAny loss at this point for MMA veteran Urijah Faber would be considered a major setback.
The quiet contenders

Since 2011, Matt Brown and Mike Pyle are a combined 11-2 in the Octagon, yet you won't find them on any top 10 welterweight rankings. Neither is willing to make a big point of that publicly, but there's no question both are getting a little anxious. After his last win, Brown said, "Just because a bunch of media people don't believe I'm good enough for a title shot doesn't mean it's true." Pyle, winner of four in a row, is itching to sign a fight against a top-10 opponent.

That Faber guy is back again

You can almost see the bile form in Faber's throat when forced to answer the same questions over and over leading up to these nontitle fights. "How much you got left in the tank, champ?" "Getting close to another title shot, Urijah, what's that feel like?" "Is the belt still the goal, buddy?" We should all come to this understanding that Faber feels great, he's excited to fight, and he wants a title shot, but the UFC won't give him one yet so he needs to keep winning. This fight against Yuri Alcantara might not feel big, but it's big for Faber. Any loss is a major setback.

FIVE QUESTIONS


What does Alistair Overeem look like?

He was Superman against Brock Lesnar and Clark Kent against Antonio Silva. No stranger to performance-enhancing drug accusations, Overeem is in a critical spot. He didn't look the same in February, his first appearance since producing a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio in Nevada last year. He told ESPN.com he would never apply for testosterone-replacement therapy, despite tests that showed low levels after his last fight. There are a lot of variables floating around. Can Overeem be Superman again in the midst of them?

[+] EnlargeTravis Browne
Al Powers for ESPNIf Travis Browne can pass a difficult test against Alistair Overeem, he could be the biggest winner of the night.
Is Travis Browne for real?

Browne passes the eye test. He moves. He has heavyweight knockout power. His grappling is underrated. He seems like he's in shape, and his only loss came after his hamstring busted in the opening minute of a fight. Overeem -- whether he's at his best or not -- is going to test him, though. If Browne is spectacular, he could be the biggest winner of the entire night.

Is 'Shogun' still elite?

Rua is slowing down. It never really felt as though he was going to lose to Brandon Vera last August, but we were sort of expecting a windmill dunk and got a weak layup instead. Then in December, it seemed like he was operating on fumes against a physical Alexander Gustafsson. Three of the last five men Shogun has defeated are now retired. How worried should we be about this?

Is the self-proclaimed 'Gangster' going to lose three in a row?

Whether you like Sonnen or not, this is a man who does not avoid tough fights. He has gone from Silva to Jon Jones to a light heavyweight contest against a former champion in Rua. Sonnen is undersized for this division -- a fact made obvious by his decision to return to middleweight regardless of what happens in Boston. Sonnen can survive a loss if it comes to it, but a proposed fight against Vitor Belfort can't.

Is Michael McDonald the third-best bantamweight in the world?

Both ESPN.com and UFC rankings still have McDonald trailing Faber. Both fight on this Boston card. No doubt, a certain contingent of MMA fans would rank McDonald ahead of Faber heading into this weekend, but it's close. If the 22-year-old runs through Brad Pickett, it will be difficult not to bump him up.

WHO'S ON THE HOT SEAT?


Michael Johnson

[+] EnlargeManny Gamburyan
Dave Mandel of Sherdog.comManny Gamburyan is in need of a victory just as bad as Saturday's opponent and former TUF teammate Cole Miller.
The once promising career of a TUF runner-up has hit a major crossroads. Johnson looked like a tough matchup after disposing of Shane Roller and Tony Ferguson, but he was nearly knocked out by Danny Castillo before suffering back-to-back losses. He's still not out of his league against Joe Lauzon -- at least we think.

Manny Gamburyan

Seems like a lifetime ago that Gamburyan fought his way to a WEC title shot against Jose Aldo. Fighting Gamburyan is like fighting an angry fire hydrant; he's compact and seemingly made of metal. He also has a long history with the UFC, although a 1-3 record in his last four fights is tough to look past.

Cole Miller

Might as well discuss Gamburyan's opponent as well. These two know each other well from their days on the TUF 5 reality set on Team Jens Pulver. Now, Miller needs a win just as badly as his former teammate, having gone 1-2 since his drop to featherweight last year.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE


Because there's still more to 2013 than a middleweight rematch, even though it doesn't feel like it sometimes … because over the course of his career, Shogun is 6-for-6 when it comes to knocking out opponents following a loss … because two of the most explosive heavyweights are incredibly hungry going into the same fight … because Brown and Pyle are fighting each other with the exact same chip on their respective shoulders … because McGregor might be the most fun athlete the UFC has on its roster.

Browne on Reem, PEDs, facing teammates

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
8:17
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
Archive
Antonio ''Big Foot'' Silva Josh Hedges/Getty ImagesTravis Browne's lone loss came against Antonio Silva in October after Browne suffered a hamstring injury.

From the moment Travis Browne signed with the UFC in 2010, he believed he was good enough to win the heavyweight title.

Not after a few fights. Not after testing himself against the division’s lower tier. Browne says that in his mind, he was ready to wear the belt immediately.

“When you fight with the UFC, you have to be ready to fight for the championship the day you sign,” Browne told ESPN.com. “If you’re in it for the right reason, you have that heart.

“You also have to have a management to help you along, because fighters are dumb. We have that mentality. We will go out there and fight anybody, even though everybody else knows we’re going to get our ass whupped.”

Browne (14-1-1) is now seven fights into his UFC career -- but he has not fought for the heavyweight title. He’s getting close to it, though. The 31-year-old faces Alistair Overeem this weekend in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston.

Fighting out of Albuquerque, N.M., Browne is the No. 9-ranked fighter in the division, according to ESPN.com. His only loss came in a first-round knockout against Antonio Silva last year after suffering a crippling tear to his hamstring muscle.

See what the heavyweight contender had to say leading up to this high-profile bout.

ESPN: This feels like a big fight in Boston, facing a former multi-promotional champion in Overeem.

Browne: I wouldn’t say it’s any bigger than any of my other fights. I don’t put any more pressure on myself. Some people say it’s a win-win situation for me. If I win, great -- if I lose, it was against one of the top guys. I don’t look at it that way. I have a lot to lose. If I go out and lose to Overeem, I’m back at square one. Where do I fit in the division? People are counting me out and it’s like, “Bro, we haven’t started yet. The bell hasn’t rung yet.”

ESPN: You feel like you have anything still to prove to yourself in terms of, “Can I hang with the absolute top guys like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos?”

Browne: If you don’t believe that about yourself, you risk catching a serious ass-whupping. I don’t plan on catching those at all. I’m here to be a champ. I’m always out to prove something.

ESPN: What did you think of Overeem’s last performance, a knockout loss to Antonio Silva at UFC 156?

Browne: From what I remember of the fight, he was winning pretty handily. He was ahead both of the first two rounds. I don’t remember if he looked good or looked bad. He was winning and that’s all that really matters. He got caught, got stopped. That’s just the way things go.

ESPN: After the bout, the Nevada State Athletic Commission revealed Overeem had low testosterone levels in a post-fight drug test. Did you have any thoughts on that?

Browne: When you’re an athlete, you depend on your body -- it’s not like a freak accident with him, like, “Oh my gosh, one day he woke up and had a huge tumor that needed to be removed.” It’s pretty clear what happened with him. For me, you reap what you sow. There are consequences for your actions and he’s dealing with them. And I don’t know if he’s on [testosterone replacement therapy] now or he’s back to doing what he used to do or whatever. That doesn’t concern me. For me, steroids don’t make you a better fighter. It increases certain things that intimidate other people. I don’t care about that stuff. He’s going to do what he needs to do to feel ready for the fight.

(Note: Overeem told ESPN.com, “I’m not planning to apply for TRT and I’m not planning on applying for TRT in the future.” Massachusetts Department of Public Safety spokesperson Terrel Harris confirmed Overeem did not apply for a TRT exemption for Fight Night 26, “to the best of my knowledge.”)

ESPN: Do you feel confident in the job athletic commissions are doing to monitor performance-enhancing drugs?

Browne: I think they make it pretty easy on us [to cheat]. I think all athletic commissions need to come under one umbrella. It needs to be one big thing. One thing I actually applauded the Nevada commission on is that if you have ever been caught for steroids or any PED, you will not get any kind of TRT exemption. So a lot of fighters aren’t going to be fighting in Las Vegas anymore, you know what I mean? There are consequences for your actions. Just like we try to teach our kids every day, there are consequences. That’s the way I feel stuff like this needs to be. People need to be held accountable.

ESPN: A teammate of yours, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, is expected to eventually move to heavyweight. This might be years away, but have you discussed at all what would happen if you were holding the belt when Jones moves up?

Browne: I respect Jon and I believe he respects me. He’s kind of made comments about if I’m a contender or holding the belt, he wouldn’t make a run for it because in a way, that’s a little disrespectful. But if the cards play out and he’s fighting heavyweight and I’m holding the belt and he wants to come after it, then that’s what we’re here for. I don’t take that personally.

UFC on Fox 7 by the numbers

April, 16, 2013
4/16/13
3:17
PM ET
By Andrew R. Davis
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive


UFC on Fox 7 will air on free network television from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., Saturday night. In the main event, UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson will defend his title against the debuting #1 contender Gilbert Melendez, who was the final Strikeforce lightweight champion. In the co-main events, Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier will face former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir and Nate Diaz faces another UFC debutant in former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson. Here are the numbers you need to know for Saturday’s fights:

6: UFC decisions to start his career for Henderson, second among active UFC fighters behind flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Henderson is the only fighter to start his UFC career with at least five consecutive decisions won.

Most UFC Decisions to Start Career, Active Fighters
Demetrious Johnson 7
Benson Henderson 6*
Diego Nunes 6
Nam Phan 6
*Won all decisions

10: Consecutive title fights for Melendez, who held the Strikeforce title from April 2009 to January 2013 when the organization was dissolved into the UFC. Melendez won four fights by decision and three by KO/TKO. His notable wins include rival Josh Thomson (twice) and DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki.

11: Wins by KO or TKO for Melendez, four under the Strikeforce banner. Henderson has been knocked down three times in his UFC/WEC career, most notably the jumping kick off the cage from Anthony Pettis at WEC 53.

9: This will be the ninth time Melendez will fight inside the HP Pavilion, the proverbial stomping grounds of Strikeforce. He is 7-1 in previous fights at the “Shark Tank,” losing the Strikeforce lightweight championship to Thomson in 2008.

21: Takedowns for Henderson in six UFC fights (3.5 per fight). Melendez has a 71 percent takedown defense but allowed a combined 13 takedowns in his two career losses (seven to Mitsuhiro Ishida, six to Thomson).

3.6: Strikes landed per minute by Melendez. During his seven-fight win streak, Melendez has outstruck his opponents 482-272 (plus-210) in significant strikes. Henderson absorbs 1.5 significant strikes per minute and only 30 in his last win over Melendez teammate Nate Diaz.

8: Mir has an eight-inch reach advantage over Cormier (79 inches to 71). That’s nothing new to Cormier, as he’s beaten Antonio Silva (82), Devin Cole (79.5) and Josh Barnett (78).

6: All six of Mir’s career losses have come by way of KO or TKO. The former UFC heavyweight champion has never lost back-to-back fights in his career. Seven of Cormier’s 11 career wins have come via strikes (five KO/TKO, two submissions due to strikes).

8: Submission wins by Mir inside the UFC Octagon, tied for second most all time. Cormier has faced only one submission attempt in his Strikeforce career (Barnett).

Most UFC Wins by Submission
Royce Gracie 11
Frank Mir 8
Nate Diaz 8
Kenny Florian 8

3: This is Mir’s first camp with Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M. If he wins, Mir would be the third UFC heavyweight from Jackson’s to win in this calendar year, joining Shawn Jordan (UFC on Fox 6) and Travis Browne (TUF 17 finale).

5: Of his eight submission wins inside the UFC Octagon, five have earned Nate Diaz a UFC submission of the night bonus (second all time). Thomson has never been submitted in 25 professional fights and also has nine submission victories of his own (four in Strikeforce).

Most Submission of the Night Bonuses
Joe Lauzon 6
Nate Diaz 5
Terry Etim 4

208: Diaz landed 30 significant strikes in his title fight against Benson Henderson, 208 fewer than his victory over Donald Cerrone in two fewer rounds. Thomson will be tough to hit as well; he absorbs 1.8 strikes per minute, but did absorb 3.0 per minute in his last loss to Melendez.
Gabriel Gonzaga will file an official complaint with the Nevada State Athletic Commission after his controversial knockout against Travis Browne on Saturday. More »

'Big Foot' spoils party for hobbled Browne

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
8:06
AM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Not so fast, UFC heavyweights.

Antonio Silva proved he won’t go quietly into the night on Friday, as he corralled a limping Travis Browne and slugged his way to a first round TKO victory in the main event of UFC on FX 5.

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.”
[+] EnlargeAntonio 'Bigfoot' Silva
Josh Hedges/Getty ImagesAntonio Silva stomped all over Travis Browne at a time when nothing short of an impressive win would do.

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.”

Browne keeping it light for 'Big Foot'

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
6:07
AM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive
MINNEAPOLIS -- A person can extrapolate a lot from a weigh-in, almost all of it pure guesswork. However, one thing is certain of Travis Browne leading up to his heavyweight main event fight against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva this weekend at UFC on FX 5.

He’s coming in light.

The undefeated Browne -- whom oddsmakers see as a bit more than a 2-to-1 favorite over Silva -- tipped the scales at 246 pounds Thursday during the official prefight weigh-in at Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. It’s the lightest he’s ever been during his two-year UFC career.

By contrast, “Bigfoot” came in just slightly heavier than his normally rock-solid 264 pounds, hitting the upper limit of the UFC heavyweight division at 266. Afterward the two engaged in an intense, nose-to-nose staredown that ended only when the hulking former EliteXC champion’s coaches succeeded in pulling him behind the curtain at the side of the stage.

For a guy who was 250 pounds during his last fight against Chad Griggs at UFC 145 and 255 versus Rob Broughton before that at UFC 135, Browne’s lean look is noteworthy, if not stunning. While it might be a mistake to try to deduce a fighter’s strategy simply from watching him climb up on a scale in his underpants, the weight loss also isn’t an accident. Coming in so much lighter likely affirms the popular notion that he’ll try to out-quick and out-maneuver Silva rather than match muscle with him.

Or at least, that has seemed to be Browne’s modus operandi in the past.

Previous to this, his lowest mark had been the 247 pounds he weighed against the much taller Stefan Struve at UFC 130. During that bout, he looked particularly nimble on his feet while he bounced, circled and peppered Struve with leg kicks as a prelude to a highlight reel, Superman punch KO during the final minute of the first round. In fairness, he also looked a little sloppy at times and survived a fleeting choke attempt from Struve during the fight’s lone ground exchange.
[+] EnlargeTravis Browne
Al Bello/Getty ImagesA shredded Travis Browne efficiently settled matters with Stefan Struve at UFC 130.

Against “Bigfoot,” conventional wisdom says Browne will want to stay off the mat entirely. It’s no good to have a guy nicknamed after Sasquatch lying on top of you, as Fedor Emelianenko found out the hard way in February 2011.

To that end, Silva could shape up as an interesting physical test for the 6-foot-7-inch Hawaiian fighter, who hasn’t faced off against a ton of behemoths en route to a 4-0-1 mark in the Octagon. Browne’s UFC record so far includes once-and-future light heavyweights Griggs and James McSweeney as well as the sleek, 230-pound Cheick Kongo and the doughy, 6-2 Broughton, who carried a few too many of his 261 pounds around his midsection when they met. Prior to Friday, the biggest heavyweight Brown has fought in the Octagon has been Struve, who is “Skyscraper” tall but more lanky than anything else.

Though he comes in off back-to-back losses, Silva will be an entirely different animal. His best chance here will be to use his size and strength to stifle Browne’s mobility against the fence and/or eventually bring him to the mat. That’s what he did with such success in his win over Emelianenko in the opening round of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix last year. Against the smaller, quicker Daniel Cormier six months later, Silva was forced to fight on the feet and, despite weight, power and reach advantages, paid for it in the form of a first-round KO defeat.

In any case, we probably won’t have to wait long to find out what either guy has in mind. In 34 combined fights, Browne and Silva have let their bouts go to the judges only five times. For his part, Browne has five wins that lasted less than a minute and nine of his 14 career fights have ended in the first round.

New incentives for 'Bigfoot' in the UFC

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
12:03
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
Archive
Antonio SilvaJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesGame face: Antonio Silva is fighting to win ... and to secure his spot in the UFC roster.

His long-term goal was always to fight in UFC.

So when Antonio Silva received the news that he and every other Strikeforce heavyweight would compete inside the Octagon, the Brazilian could hardly contain his excitement. UFC is the destination of any fighter seeking to make a substantial living as a mixed martial artist. It’s also the place where fighters get to demonstrate their skills before the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans.

Silva, despite joining the UFC ranks off a first-round knockout loss to Daniel Cormier in September 2011, was eager to prove that he deserved his ranking as one of the top 10 heavyweights. In his mind, the loss to Cormier was nothing more than a blip on an otherwise impressive 16-4 career ledger.

Silva was determined to show the UFC folks that he is no walk-over heavyweight. And making his debut against former titleholder Cain Velasquez, instead of originally scheduled opponent Roy Nelson, was the perfect stage on which to make his point.

But Silva never got the opportunity to make a good first impression. Velasquez pummeled and bloodied him on May 26 en route to a first-round knockout victory at UFC 146.

Now Silva returns to the Octagon on Friday night in Minneapolis against hard-hitting heavyweight Travis Browne. This time around, however, Silva isn’t out to prove that he is among the best heavyweights. Things are more severe: He's seeking to secure his spot on UFC’s payroll.

“This fight for me is all-or-nothing,” Silva told ESPN.com. “I’m coming into this fight knowing the importance of fighting in the UFC. The UFC is the best promotion in the world, and by having a better performance and victory, it will transcend into a better life for my family.

“It will also transcend into a better life for me professionally.”

Throughout his training camp in preparation for Friday night’s fight, thoughts of his wife, Maria, and two daughters -- Annie (13) and Iysha (3) -- were always present. They've been the reasons he always trains vigorously, and they are the reasons he took his training regimen to an even higher level for this particular fight.

Silva can’t afford a loss to Browne, who will bring a 13-0-1 record into the bout.

Each time Browne’s image enters Silva’s mind, images of his family immediately follow. Browne represents someone who is determined to take food off the Silva family’s table.

Those images of Browne bring a hard frown to Silva’s normally joyful face. But the joy quickly returns when Silva envisions Browne’s fighting style.

Cormier and Velasquez, teammates at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., are wrestling-based fighters, whereas Browne butters his bread with strikes. Browne won't shy away from a striking altercation, and that suits Silva just fine. It’s a recipe that Silva believes will put him back in the win column.

“I like to fight against strikers,” Silva said. “I’m not taking anything away from Browne, he is definitely a good fighter, but his wrestling skills aren’t to the level of Cormier and Cain Velasquez.
[+] EnlargeCain Velasquez
Rod Mar for ESPN.comCain Velasquez, top, made a mess of Antonio Silva's face and eintire fight plan at UFC 146 in May.

“Unfortunately during my first fight in UFC [against Velasquez] I got cut and was unable to continue. But this time I am going to go out there and show the UFC fans the fighter that I really am. You’re going to see a ‘Bigfoot’ who is angry and with an appetite for a victory.”

The anger and hunger have not waned once in the days leading to Friday night’s showdown, and it’s been that way since Silva’s training camp began. Unlike his two previous training camps, Silva’s opponent has remained the same for this fight. Each training day was staged to prepare for Browne. And Silva is certain that not having to alter his fight plan will serve him well Friday night.

“It’s enabled me to focus on one strategy for my opponent,” Silva said. “Since the opponent remained the same from the beginning of my camp until the end of my camp, I was able to stay very focused.

“That is definitely going to benefit me in this fight.”

It might also ensure that Silva gets to stay on UFC’s roster, or at least remain relevant within the promotion -- allowing him to continue the process of securing a better life for his wife and two daughters.

Jones settles feud, defends title over Evans

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
12:57
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
Archive
Jon Jones retained his light heavyweight title Saturday with a unanimous decision over Rashad Evans at UFC 145 in Atlanta.

Evans could never mount a consistent attack and lost by judges’ scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 50-45. ESPN.com scored the fight 50-45 for Jones.

The victory ends, or at least tempers, a long-running feud between the former sparring partners.

While Jones (16-1) successfully defended his belt for the third time, he displayed more caution against Evans than in previous title bouts. His cautious approach might be contributed to having faced Evans often in camp.

“I did a lot of things tonight that weren’t planned,” Jones said. “My striking was looking a little elementary. I didn’t want to make mistakes.

“But who I beat was very important to me.
[+] EnlargeJon Jones
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comJon Jones' sharp elbow stikes helped slow down Rashad Evans.

“It felt completely different fighting [Evans]. Tonight I threw a lot of elbows. Those are the things you would never do to a training partner.”

The elbows, especially in the second round, slowed Evans’ attack. They also left swelling above the former light heavyweight champion’s right eye.

After suffering the injury, Evans spent much of the fight protecting that right side of his face. Evans also failed to take Jones to the canvas.

The lone time Jones was on his back came in the fifth round when he pulled guard. But that occurred with seconds remaining in the bout.

“He was pretty crafty and pretty tricky,” Evans said. "He threw some things he didn’t throw in practice, but there were some things he did better in practice than he did tonight.”

Evans suffered just the second loss of his career. He is 17-2-1 overall.

MacDonald finished Mills in impressive fashion

Rory MacDonaldEd Mulholland for ESPN.comRory MacDonald's ground and pound left its mark on Che Mills.

If Rory MacDonald was to be taken seriously as a welterweight contender, he needed to pass a presumed stiff test in Che Mills.

MacDonald passed the test with flying colors.

He dominated Mills in the first round, taking him to the ground quickly and landing hard punches. When the horn sounded to end the round, Mills’ face was bruised, cut and bloody.

By the start of the second, there was little doubt MacDonald would come out victorious.

He quickly took Mills back to the ground and again landed punches. Mills was on his back and had no strategy to reverse his misfortune.

And MacDonald (14-1) wasn’t about to help him find an answer. Once he got Mills’ back, MacDonald aggressively landed punches that forced referee Mario Yamasaki to step in at the 2:20 mark.

“Che was a great opponent,” MacDonald said. “I took this fight very serious. I’m very happy with the way the fight went.”

Mills fell to 14-5 with one no-contest.

Rothwell stops Schaub by TKO in Round 1

Ben RothwellEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBen Rothwell's power proved the deciding factor against Brendan Schaub.
Brendan Schaub isn’t afraid to exchange punches with the biggest, strongest heavyweights in mixed martial arts. That lack of fear, however, cost him against hard-hitting Ben Rothwell.

During a vicious exchange, Rothwell landed a left hook to the head that rendered Schaub unconscious at 1:10 of the first round.

“I worked very, very hard,” Rothwell said. “I changed my workout. I’m not backing down. I know my chin can take some shots.”

Rothwell improved to 32-8. He is 2-2 inside the Octagon competition.

Schaub, who not long ago was one of the fastest rising heavyweights in the UFC, has dropped two in a row. He is now 8-3 overall.

McDonald knocks out ex-champ Torres

Michael McDonaldEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBy knocking out Miguel Torres, Michael McDonald proved he's arrived.

The road back to the top of the bantamweight division became a lot more bumpy for former WEC champion Miguel Torres.

Michael McDonald landed a hard right uppercut in Round 1 that sent Torres to the canvas. Torres was asleep before hitting the ground.

The fight would end at the 3:18 mark, dropping Torres to 40-5.

While Torres’ professional record still looks impressive on paper, it's deceiving: Four of his five losses came in Torres’ seven most recent fights.

“I was paying attention to his range,” McDonald said. “I wanted to make sure he didn’t get his jab off.”

McDonald improves to 15-1. He has won eight fights in a row.

Hominick drops third fight in a row

Eddie YaginEd Mulholland for ESPN.comEddie Yagin's aggression made life difficult for Mark Hominick.

Former top featherweight contender Mark Hominick continues to struggle to find his groove.

For the second straight fight, Hominick failed to rebound from his UFC 129 unanimous decision loss to champion Jose Aldo.

Eddie Yagin registered knockdowns in the first and second rounds to edge Hominick by split decision.

Two judges scored it 29-28 for Yagin, who improved to 16-5-1. The third judge and ESPN.com had Hominick winning 29-28.

Hominick (20-11) ate right hands from Yagin during most of the bout. And in the first two rounds he was dropped by Yagin right hands.

Despite tasting hard right hands, Hominick found his rhythm in the third and punished Yagin with still left jabs and hard right hands.

But that knockdown in the closely contested second round proved too much for Hominick to overcome.

Bocek takes down Alessio

Mark BocekEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMark Bocek, left, dominated on the feet and on the ground against John Alessio.
Mark Bocek is one of the most underrated lightweights in UFC. But he might have turned that around with a unanimous decision over veteran John Alessio.

The fight was scored 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27. ESPN.com had Bocek winning 29-28.

Bocek came into the bout as the superior ground fighter and wasted little time proving it. He took Alessio to the ground early in the first round and punished him with hard left elbows.

But while Bocek had the advantage on the ground, Alessio was better standing. And in the second he caught Bocek repeatedly with left-right combinations.

Bocek (11-4) would get Alessio on the ground briefly, but they stood for most of the round.

Alessio, a former welterweight, slips to 34-15.

Browne submits Griggs in first

 Travis Browne Ed Mulholland for ESPN.com

Taking on hard-hitting Travis Browne is proving to be a difficult task. Chad Griggs became the latest heavyweight to learn this lesson.

Browne improved to 13-0-1 with a first-round submission of Griggs. The loss was just the second for Griggs as a pro.

Browne entered the fight determined to make a statement. He was disappointed after his most recent outing -- a unanimous decision over Rob Broughton.

During that fight at UFC 135 in Denver’s high altitude, Browne was sluggish as he gasped for air. But cardio never became a factor for Browne in Atlanta.

He landed a hard left knee that stunned Griggs. Browne than took his opponent to the ground, where he applied an arm triangle that forced Griggs to tap at 2:29.

“I belong here,” Browne said. “UFC heavyweights, watch out baby.”

Griggs fell to 11-2.

Brown hands Thompson his first pro loss

Matt BrownEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMatt Brown, right, dug down deep to grind down Stephen Thompson.

For the first time in his professional mixed martial arts career, Stephen Thompson suffered a loss.

Veteran Matt Brown used his experience and superior ground skills to punish Thompson for three rounds during their welterweight bout.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 29-27 and 30-27 for Thompson. ESPN.com scored it 30-27 for Brown.

Brown’s experience would prove especially beneficial in the second round.

With Thompson finally able to get his striking game untracked, a wobbly Brown (14-11) landed a hard right hand. The punch put Thompson on his back.

On the ground, Brown landed an elbow that opened a cut on Thompson’s forehead.

Both fighters were exhausted entering the third, but Brown was able to take Thompson to the ground and punish him.

Brown would get Thompson (6-1) in a mounted triangle, where he began landing several left hands.

Longer Njokuani shuts out Makdessi

Anthony NjokuaniEd Mulholland for ESPN.comAnthony Njokuani's range proved the difference against John Makdessi.

In a 158-pound catchweight bout, Anthony Njokuani landed kicks to the head and body of John Makdessi en route to a unanimous decision.

All three judges, as well as ESPN.com, scored the fight 30-27.

Njokuani (15-6, one no contest) stunned Makdessi with a hard left hook on the chin. He would utilize a 7-inch reach advantage to land most of his strikes and stay out of harm’s way.

Makdessi, despite not finding a solution to Njokuani’s reach, continued to press the action throughout the fight. But entering the third round his left leg was showing the damage done from absorbing numerous kicks.

Makdessi’s left leg was badly bruised.

The fight, originally slated for 155 pounds, became a catchweight bout when Makdessi (9-2) came in two pounds over the lightweight limit during Friday’s weigh-ins.

Danzig ignores injured ankle to beat Escudero

Mac DanzigEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMac Danzig, right, fought through the pain to overcome Efrain Escudero.

In the battle of former TUF winners, lightweight Mac Danzig overcame a badly swollen right ankle to earn a unanimous decision over Efrain Escudero.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. ESPN.com scored the fight 30-27 for Danzig.

Danzig controlled the standup with his jab and an occasional left hook. But Escudero nearly finished him in the first round with a right ankle hook.

Danzig, however, escaped the submission attempt and despite swelling to his ankle fought hard in the second and third rounds.

The damaged ankle did not prevent Danzig from applying pressure on Escudero, who could not find a rhythm in any of the three rounds.

Danzig, the Season 6 "Ultimate Fighter" winner at welterweight, improved to 21-9-1. Escudero, a TUF Season 8 lightweight champion, slipped to 18-5.

Clements punishes Wisniewski with strikes

Chris ClementsEd Mulholland for ESPN.comKeith Wisniewski, right, absorbed punishment from all angles against Chris Clements.

Chris Clements landed hard strikes in the second and third rounds to earn a split decision in his UFC debut over fellow welterweight Keith Wisniewski.

Clements persuaded two judges who gave him scores of 29-28 and 30-27. The third judge favored Wisniewski 29-28. ESPN.com scored the fight for Clements 29-28.

After a close first round, in which Clements (11-4) was taken to the ground, he picked up his striking attack in the second and third. He hit Wisniewski with hard punches, elbows and spinning back kicks.

Wisniewski (28-14-1) absorbed the punishment and fought hard, but the accumulation of strikes began to wear him down late in the third round.

Brimage holds off Blanco

Marcus BrimageEd Mulholland for ESPN.comMarcus Brimage's aggression helped power him past Maximo Blanco.

Despite tasting several front kicks in the second round, Marcus Brimage refused to back down in the third and secured a split decision over Maximo Blanco in a featherweight bout.

Two judges scored the fight for Brimage 30-27 and 29-28, while the third had it 29-28 for Blanco. ESPN.com scored it for Brimage 29-28.

Brimage (5-1) was the more aggressive fighter in Round 1, landing hard punches. But after tasting several front kicks on the chin, he fought more cautiously in the second.

Seemingly aware that the third round would likely decide the outcome, Brimage picked up the pace. He remained somewhat cautious of Blanco’s kicks, but took the risks and came forward.

Blanco, who made his featherweight debut after competing previously at lightweight, falls to 8-4-1 with one no-contest. He has lost two fights in a row.

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