Some nights the fights are all about a shiny brass-and-leather belt. The stakes are high, and the level of pugilism measures up. The arena is buzzing such that the glitzy celebrities seated cageside are too transfixed by the championship wrangling to even text in their post fight dinner reservations.
Then there are evenings like Friday, when so much happens and doesn't happen, and some things that happen don't matter ... and you might not even see them happen. There are mixed martial arts fans who will wake up on Saturday morning, go to set their DVR for the weekend's fights ... and only then realize they already happened. Oh yeah, Saturday afternoon in Australia is Friday night in the United States.
Those who didn't check the world clock in time to catch this UFC Fight Night in Brisbane missed out on a spectacle -- actually, more than one -- but nothing that holds significance within the sport in the long run. With different results, there could have been consequences. But when the curtain closed on this one, the show was over.
The main event pitted Mark Hunt against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, and the storyline going in was that a victory by the "Super Samoan" might keep him at least marginally relevant to the title chase. After all, Hunt had won four fights in a row before running into Junior dos Santos back in May, and he nearly went the distance against the second-best heavyweight in the world. Silva, on the other hand, has lost twice in the last year and a half to Cain Velasquez, and both bouts were so brutally one-sided that there's no way the big Brazilian is getting another shot at the champ.
As it turned out, neither Hunt nor Silva showed himself to be a championship-level fighter. Each had his moments of brutalizing the other, and they conspired for extended spells of simultaneous assault in which either man could have fallen for good at any moment, no questions asked. But even when cage life was at its most wobbly, these two fighters shared a resiliency that was supernatural. They had the arena in an uproar and Twitter bursting with hyperbole -- "sickest HW fight ever!!" UFC president Dana White gushed, and he was not alone -- as they slobber knocked each other around the octagon for 25 bloody, exhausting and concussive minutes.
The judges rendered the fight a majority draw, and while that result typically would seem like dithering, in this case it was justice. No one lost. No one won (although at the post-fight press conference, both men were awarded a win bonus on top of a Fight of the Night check). No one takes a step up or down. Life goes on, and so does the heavyweight division.
If that description sounds callously dismissive of a fight many observers are deeming an instant classic, so be it. Hunt vs. Silva was a spectacle of toughness, no question, and that's a necessary element of the fight game. But when a bout devolves into an artlessly staggering mess, its appeal gets stuck at stop-and-stare. There's nothing sustainable there. If Cain Velasquez was sitting home watching, he certainly wasn't shivering in fear and doubt.
Jon Jones wasn't, either, after watching the co-main event, in which Mauricio "Shogun" Rua rose from the left-for-dead with a quick pasting of James Te Huna. The 32-year-old former light heavyweight champ, whose reign was ended by "Bones" Jones nearly three years ago, was on a two-fight losing streak and it appeared like the game might have passed him by. But in sending Te Huna crashing to the mat with a one-punch KO just 1:03 into the bout, the Brazilian showed astonishing rejuvenation.
Make no mistake, though: Rua is still hanging by thread in the UFC's light heavyweight top 10. A loss would have been a more defining event, since it could be reasonably assumed that would have marked the end for "Shogun." But now? It depends on what the ego needs. Perhaps it will be a winnable fight in Brazil so he can bow out regally. Or maybe Rua can't get the title chase out of his head, and he'll embark on a slow build that could prove unwieldy for someone with so many miles on the tires.
So entertainment, even inspiration? Yes and yes. But a pivotal chapter in a consequential story? Not on this night.