Travis Browne had a bad taste in his mouth.
Despite winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut with a technical knockout victory over James McSweeney in June 2010, whatever praise the budding heavyweight up-and-comer garnered for his shellacking of "The Hammer" was left by the wayside in his very next fight.
Cheick Kongo has a way of doing that to people.
"Hapa" battled the mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran to a draw on the main card of the UFC 120 event across the pond, in a sloppy, artless affair that saw Kongo tug the shorts, mash the balls, and do just about every other ugly thing he's come to be associated with over the course of his decade-long combat sports career.
Consider Browne the collateral damage.
If the Hawaiian was going to get himself back on the radar, he was going to need a performance that was the antithesis of his Kongo catastrophe. While anything can happen when two men -- particularly heavyweights -- step inside a steel cage and let their hands go, Browne was tasked with a formidable foe in his very next fight.
Just a shade under seven feet tall, "Skyscraper" was one the sport's few big men with the stature to tower over Browne. In addition, the Dutchman had a six-inch advantage in reach, as well as a five-fight advantage in Octagon experience. At 5-2 in his UFC career (21-4 overall), Struve was coming off back-to-back knockout victories and had a staggering 15 submission wins to his credit.
Browne was still the odds-on favorite at -140 to win their UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill" main card heavyweight pay-per-view (PPV) showdown, which took place back on May 28, 2011, inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Here's what happened.
Touch of gloves gets the action started and Browne sinks a heavy leg kick into his opponent's thigh. Struve fires right back with one of his own. "Skyscraper" sprints forward and tries for a Superman punch that misses its mark. The crowd gasps for the one that got away.
They clinch and go to the wall and spend a few minutes jockeying for position.
Referee Steve Mazzagatti is disinterested in the fence friction and orders a separation. On the break, Browne lets a combination go, then follows up with hard kicks and punches. "Browne the aggressor early," observes UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg.
Both men swing for the fences -- and miss by a mile -- before "Hapa" resorts to a takedown.
Browne stumbles during a transition and Struve attacks, latching on a D'Arce choke and sending UFC color commentator Joe Rogan into a state of erection. Unfortunately the Dutchman -- who switched to an Anaconda choke -- can't maintain the grip and his foe escapes out the back door.
They get back to their feet and Browne fires off a Superman punch right down Broadway.
It connect flush with Struve's dome and the impact is so violent, it actually folds "Skyscraper" in half -- backwards like some kind of weird exorcism -- before his feet catch up to the rest of the body, sending him to the canvas in a heap of unconscious defeat.
See it to believe it by clicking here.
It was exactly the kind of win Browne needed to distance himself from the Kongo fight and immediately positioned the Hawaiian as a major player in the promotion's 265-pound division. A 5-1 record would follow, one that included four brutal finishes, and "Hapa" stands just one win away from a heavyweight title fight.
Hoping to play spoiler is Fabricio Werdum.
They'll do the deed this Saturday night (April 19, 2014) in the main event of UFC on FOX 11, which takes place inside the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. The winner moves on to face Cain Velasquez in Mexico for all the marbles, while the loser heads to the back of the line.