What was the UFC thinking?
That was the question burning up my Twitter timeline during UFC 135 as a bad fight between Travis Browne and Rob Broughton flowed right into a fight between Mark Hunt and Ben Rothwell that saw both men huff and puff to the final bell.
Last night's UFC 135 featured two heavyweight slobber knockers. At least that was the intent. It's rare to see UFC matchmaker Joe Silva book two showcase fights; he prefers matchups that are even even with legitimate doubt to the outcome. Insiders knew that wasn't the case here. Prospect Travis Browne was supposed to obliterate the jiggly overweight Brit Rob Broughton. Ben Rothwell, in his first bout back after an ACL injury, was supposed to steamroll kickboxer Mark Hunt and finish him easily on the ground. Instead, fatigue was the ultimate equalizer in both cases.
Both fights turned ugly and it's easy to say that three of the four involved fighters aren't at what one might call "the UFC level." Only Browne has the right combination of talent and potential to be a "long term" player in the promotion. And even with that potential, as I wrote last night, Browne had not shown anything so spectacular past a one punch KO of Stefan Struve (a man who seems to get knocked out even in fights he wins) to where he should be showcased.
Browne faded badly against Cheick Kongo and would have lost the fight if not for Kongo's bizarre behavior catching up with him yet again and repeated shorts grabbing leading to a point deduction. Browne was put in high altitude (which should not be an excuse given Browne already training at high altitude) and given a durable opponent in what turned out to be a recipe for disaster.
Mark Hunt was coming off his first win in the better part of five years, having lost six straight fights by stoppage. It's been years since Ben Rothwell really seemed to have the skillset to finish guys near the top end of the heavyweight division. Rothwell looked hurt and barely able to get enough air into his 260+ pound frame at the end of round two, requiring assistance back to his corner. And Hunt, the feared kickboxer, was content to work takedowns to catch his breath.
Matching the two, again in the high altitude of Colorado, may have made sense to a degree. But doing it on a pay-per-view main card right after another heavyweight fight?
I've seen people suggest that without Yamamoto vs. Page and Nunes vs. Gamburyan being pulled due to injuries we wouldn't have seen both heavyweight bouts on the main card. But I don't fully believe that. The UFC simply is not featuring those divisions on main cards. And the Facebook fight between Takeya Mizugaki and Cole Escovedo was pretty much guaranteed fireworks and that couldn't push either heavyweight fight off the main card.
It's rare that I think the UFC and Joe Silva make a major misstep in fight booking decisions. When fights turn out to disappoint it's usually a surprise, or a matter of the unavoidable (some fighters just aren't exciting). But this just seemed like a bad idea that hurt the show.