October 06, 2012

Sports will school you in a way that even school will not. A college student who hits a bump in the road during a semester can drop a course or take an incomplete on the dreaded transcript. But the grading system in sports is pass or fail, no matter whether your dog ate your homework or the sun was in your eyes.

The New Orleans Saints, one of the NFL's elite teams last season, are without their head coach, defensive coordinator and an on-field defensive leader. But their feeble 0-4 start and whatever frightful record it leads to this fall still will forever live on in the league's annals. The Chicago Bulls were a force in the NBA until their superstar point guard was injured in the first game of the playoffs last spring. They ended up getting knocked out in the opening round, and that ouster will not have an asterisk attached to it in the record books.

You win or you lose. You pass or you fail. Excuses fade with time. The "W" or "L" explains everything.

Travis Browne understands that. As an undefeated mixed martial artist rising in the heavyweight ranks, he had a lot riding on the main event of Friday night's UFC on FX event at the Target Center in Minneapolis. So it was an unfortunate break for him when he mysteriously injured his left leg within the first minute of his fight with Antonio Silva, and the injury no doubt played a significant role in his first-round TKO loss. But as far as the big Hawaiian was concerned, his gimpy leg didn't beat him. "Bigfoot" Silva did.

"I don't want to take anything from Bigfoot," Browne said after being floored by a vicious overhand right hand, then finished at 3:27 with a flurry of lefts while prostrate on the mat. "He came out, he capitalized on what he saw, and he won the fight."

Indeed he did. And it couldn't have come at a better time. Silva (17-4) was coming off a pair of devastating defeats earlier this year, brutal first-round knockouts at the hands of Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez. Never mind that those two guys are among the top three heavyweights in the world. Just as Friday night's main event was Exhibit A of a win being a win being a win, a loss is a loss. And two losses are a bad trend, one that Silva believed threatened his standing in the UFC.

"This fight, for me, I have only one opportunity," he said. "I can't make any mistakes. It's either kill or be killed. Tonight I got the kill."

He got it by being focused and disciplined. While Browne (13-1-1) came out of his corner with a looping overhand punch and followed with some artful spin moves that made him look the part of a guy who trains with Jon Jones, Silva remained calm and as compact as is possible for a guy who's 6 feet 4 inches and 266 pounds (plus whatever he gained back since weigh-in). He remained outside of the range of Browne's creative standup, kept his guard up and closed the distance with the guile of a veteran. It showed that while a win over Stefan Struve was Browne's biggest fight, Bigfoot had been in the cage with, in addition to Velasquez and Cormier, top-tier guys such as Fedor Emelianenko and Fabricio Werdum. He was the more seasoned fighter.

Of course, while Browne was too classy to blame his injury, it's only fair to point out that, as he acknowledged afterward, his "left hamstring popped three times" the first time he threw a kick with that leg. That came barely 30 seconds in. The injury was not noticeable until after the fighters broke from a clinch along the cage midway through the round. After creating some punching distance, Browne moved forward to throw a right hand and the leg buckled. Travis continued to move as best he could, but eventually Silva caught up to him. And it was over.

Well, it was over for Browne, at least. For Silva, things are just getting going again. The Velasquez and Cormier losses are too recent to be forgotten just yet, so Antonio did not vault anywhere close to title contention with this victory.

On the Fuel TV postfight show, Silva was asked how this victory measured up to last year's beatdown of Fedor. "I feel both are very important for me," he said. "But now this is more important, because it's my first win in the UFC."

It was a big step for Bigfoot.

A fly in the ointment: What's up with the 125-pound division?

Two weeks ago, the UFC's first flyweight championship bout was booed by fans in Toronto and ridiculed on Twitter by fans watching at home, despite being fought at a pace unheard of in the octagon. And on Friday night, in a bout held to determine the first challenger of newly crowned belt holder Demetrious Johnson, flyweights John Dodson and Jussier da Silva engaged in a fast-paced, technical bout -- far from the brawl the most vocal and bloodthirsty among the paying customers wanted -- and got very little love for it.

Until Dodson instantly changed the minds of the fans by dropping the Brazilian with a hard left hand, then pouncing for the relentless finish at 4:35 of the second. The boos raining down on the octagon morphed into cheers.

"Let me ask everybody here: Did I put on a knockout or not?" Dodson said to mainly cheers but still some boos. "Yes, I did. Yeah! Woo-hoo!"

That last part -- the "Yeah! Woo-hoo!" -- also was essentially Dodson's reaction to being a title challenger. "It's going to be the super-fastest fight you've ever seen," he said of his matchup with Johnson. "Mighty Mouse is going to sit there and be just as fast. We're going to be moving around. It's going to be like lightning. So have us on the DVR and please rewind it and watch it in slow motion."

I fought the law and the law won: Jeremy Stephens was scheduled to fight Yves Edwards in a lightweight prelim. Instead, he got a much tougher tussle.

Stephens was arrested at the Marriott City Center Hotel in Minneapolis at around noon on Friday, taken into custody on a warrant for an assault charge in Des Moines, Iowa, last year. When reports first surfaced, some speculated whether or not Stephens would be fighing later in the day. And UFC president tried to squash such talk, posting this on his Twitter account: "Don't listen to the media! Nobody ever told them Jeremy isn't fighting. He is fighting!!"

So we waited and waited. And by "we" I include Edwards, who had his hands wrapped, gloves on and was ready to go. But 35 minutes before the main event, White told him the bout was off. Stephens was still in jail.

"So here's the deal," White wrote on the online MMA fan forum known as The Underground. "I have been working since 11am to get him out of jail. The people in Iowa hate this kid and are going to stick it to him for SURE. Every time I would cut a deal for bail, they would change the deal. And I was willing to do anything."

White went on with his post, and at the post-fight press conference he elaborated further. He said he offered to pay an exorbitant bail. He said he offered to have two armed police officers accompany Stephens to the arena, then take him back to jail after his fight.

Really? Think the Fox folks would be in favor of seeing a fighter accompanied by police on his walkout to the cage during an FX telecast? That sounds like a reality show that ventures too close to harsh reality.

Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the SI.com MMA mailbag, click on the E-mail link at the top of the page.

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