Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a stellar card from Boston on Saturday night (Aug. 17, 2013) for its debut on Fox Sports 1, worthy of being compared to any pay-per-view (PPV) card the mixed martial arts (MMA) company has brought forth thus far in 2013.
In the main event, a dominant and impressive Chael Sonnen submitted Mauricio Rua in the first round, tapping out the Pride FC legend by way of guillotine choke, being the first man to submit "Shogun" since Forrest Griffin in 2007. Sonnen's win not only had the MMA sphere in shock but he reignited the flame he desperately needed to keep the dream alive.
In the co-main event, Alistair Overeem almost dismantled Travis Browne with liver shots and had "Hapa" crouched down and covering up but the Jackson's MMA product showed immense heart and flattened Overeem with a frontkick, knocking out the deadly striker and inserting his name as one of the top heavyweight contenders in the UFC.
Unfortunately, in a sport like MMA, each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the eight-walled cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on UFC Fight Night 26, including capitalizing underdogs and a handful of disappointments. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from the event in Boston.
Many insiders told the world not to sleep on Travis Browne. On the brink of defeat, Browne caught Overeem as the Dutchman was trying to stalk his opponent and suffered his second Octagon loss in a row (watch highlights here). For Browne, this win was the biggest one in his career. To beat an individual like Overeem who's had a storied career dating back to 1999 should propel him to the heap of the division. Although there are other men who are breathing down his neck right now, Browne's win has him afloat on the heavyweight cloud nine.
Joe Rogan described Travis Browne as the "dark horse" of the heavyweight division but after knocking out the favorite, Alistair Overeem in the first round - that is an emphatic enough victory for his name to be included on the shortlist for the next behemoth in line to face the heavyweight champion.
Not only did Browne recover from the brink of defeat but also he showed that he could hang with any heavyweight on the planet. Who knows what could have happened if he didn't blow out his knee in the Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva match. Browne is now 5-1 and has nothing left to do but patiently wait for what the brass wants him to do - sitting on his $50,000 check for his Knockout of The Night performance.
Matt Brown is looking like a man possessed in the Octagon. Four straight finishes by knockout and technical knockout, riding a six-fight win streak and his last three bouts went a combined amount of four minutes - no wonder he called out Georges St. Pierre.
He needed only 30 seconds to knock Mike Pyle out cold and he did it nonchalantly, looking like it was another day at the office and punched out with a smile on his face.
This raises an interesting scenario for Brown - does he take another fight or does he try to convince his bosses that the time is right for his name to be penciled in as the next welterweight title challenger? He has already made a case for the latter. And by the way - his Knockout of the Night bonus was his second consecutive bonus.
This option is a given and although Overeem will most definitely make everyone's biggest loser list, his mystique is finally gone. Think about the hype he generated outside the UFC coming in - a K-1 Grand Prix winner, the last man to hold the DREAM and Strikeforce heavyweight championships and was slated to get an immediate title shot in the UFC had Brock Lesnar not been in his way.
It's a heartbreaker for Overeem because he was a split-second away from finishing Travis Browne - maybe Mario Yamasaki should be thanked by Browne for not stopping the fight because it could have been halted by any other official.
Overeem's UFC future now hangs in the balance - Dana White even said at the post-fight press conference he does not know what to do with him (watch replay here). Overeem definitely did not live up to his UFC hype and his next move is obviously unclear at the moment. It raises the question if Overeem's win over Lesnar is going to be the highlight of his time with the UFC.
The truth is Overeem looked well in the first round and nearly finished Browne. He hurt him so badly that it looked painful for somebody who was watching from the comfort of his or her own home. Joe Rogan hinted at Overeem moving in too comfortably - did Overeem get too confident, disrespecting Browne's standup or did the prolific striker simply get caught?
It's safe to say the years caught up with "Shogun" and he now must accept the fact that he is a different fighter than he used to be. There's nothing shameful about that - he's been in his fair share of grueling fights. However "Shogun" needs to sit back and take some time off to reassess the possibilities of his career at this point. Never once did he look to trouble Sonnen, even with his takedown or slim chances to strike with the former middleweight and light heavyweight title contender. A man known for his weak submission defense submitted Rua and "Shogun" never really looked like he was in the fight on Saturday night (watch highlights here).
He could stick around at light heavyweight and keep his namesake fighting lesser caliber fighters but the new breed has gotten the best of him and so did older guys like Sonnen and Dan Henderson. It's a sad way for him to go out if he does - but having one win in his last four is kind of troubling for a man that was known as a stone cold killer just a few years ago. The light heavyweight title seems far away now and so does the drive to get back to the glory years. This is not to say "Shogun" is done - but the clock is winding down.
For complete UFC Fight Night 26 results and blow-by-blow coverage of all the night's action click here.