There was a common theme in the three UFC events which have taken place these past two weeks.
No, it wasn't hometown fighters rising to the occasion or fights falling through at the last minute. It was fighters pegged as the future of their respective divisions being handed the toughest tests of their careers and consistently coming up short.
Four unbeaten UFC prospects not only were defeated in the past two weeks, they were beaten badly. Three were finished in their respective fights and the other easily lost a unanimous decision and was exposed for his lack of stand-up.
Worst of all? All four were significant betting favorites.
It started at UFC 152. Jimy Hettes entered his bout against Marcus Brimage as a ridiculous -475 favorite over Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 competitor Marcus Brimage. Brimage had failed to advance past the quarterfinals of the show, getting submitted by now-bantamweight Bryan Caraway in his first bout. It seemed like Hettes would have a walk in the park against "The Bama Beast."
But instead, Brimage's takedown defense held steady and Hettes was completely exposed for his lack of high level striking credentials, getting battered on the feet and having his head repeatedly snapped back like a Pez dispenser in a unanimous decision loss.
It was the same story at UFC on FUEL TV 5 in Nottingham, England just one week later. Unbeaten lightweight Paul Sass and heavyweight Stipe Miocic entered their bouts against Matt Wiman and Stefan Struve as -135 and -185 favorites respectively.
While both fighters started strong, they couldn't sustain their offense as Sass was tapped out by a beautiful Wiman armbar and Miocic TKO'd by a series of heavy Struve uppercuts.
The final straw was this past Friday (Oct. 5, 2012) at UFC on FX 5 as undefeated heavyweight Travis Browne was brought down to Earth by Antonio Silva, a man who had entered the bout on a two fight losing streak with both losses coming by first round stoppage.
Sure, a leg injury likely played a factor, but "Bigfoot" Silva was hands down the most experienced and skilled opponent Browne had faced at this point in his career and his first round TKO was a testament to that.
So what was the common theme of all four prospect's losses? For the latter three fighters (Sass, Miocic, Browne), they were stepping into the Octagon against their most difficult test to date, but there's nothing wrong with that. No one was complaining beforehand that the likes of Matt Wiman, Stefan Struve or Antonio Silva were too much for either man to handle. If you think about it, for a fighter on the rise, every fight in succession should be their most difficult fights of their careers.
In Hettes' situation, he simply faced an opponent in Brimage who could shut down his primary offense, forcing him out of his comfort zone and he had no solid back-up plan.
The lesson fans can take from this is simply to not get caught up in the hype. Not every rising prospect is going to be the next Jon Jones. Perhaps these men will work to fix the holes in their games and will come back stronger. Maybe these losses were the best thing that could have happened to them.
Sometimes, to make a perfect steak, you simply have to add some extra seasoning. I expect each prospect to learn from their high profile humblings and continue to grow.
No current UFC champion is undefeated and no great mixed martial artist has ever finished his career spotless. Even pound-for-pound greats like Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre had to deal with some hurdles on their way up.
That's no different here.
Perhaps in time, the hype train will even return to the station.