Travis Browne was in trouble.
The Jackson’s MMA representative found himself on the receiving end early and often in his co-headlining clash with fellow heavyweight Alistair Overeem at UFC Fight Night 26, as the former K-1 world grand prix champion closed the distance and buried a series of knees into Browne’s ribs at the TD Garden in Boston.
Pinning “Hapa” against the cage, Overeem landed a particularly sweet knee to the body that caused Browne to cry out and fall to the canvas live on Fox Sports 1. “The Demolition Man” followed him to the mat, winging a furious flurry or rights at his opponent’s cranium as Browne turtled up in pain.
“I was there mentally the entire time, and that almost made it worse, because I could understand what was going on,” Browne said at the post-fight press conference. “My body just shut down on me when he hit me to the body. I’ve never had that experience before -- not in training and not in a fight -- so it was a first for me.”
Despite his prone state, Brown tried to communicate with referee Mario Yamasaki to let him know that he wanted to continue fighting, although Yamasaki did appear to miss an illegal knee landed to Browne’s head while he was clearly grounded.
“At the end of the day, this is a fight. This is what I signed up for. If something like that [illegal knee] happens, I know [Overeem] is not trying to do anything on purpose. You’re just going out there to do your job. I didn’t feel anything different. I just felt him hitting me, and I knew I needed to get up and get back to work,” said Browne. “I was yelling to Mario that I was OK, and he told me to move, so I just stood up. I couldn’t breathe, but I just popped up and started working my game, which was something I should have done from the beginning.”
With his vertical base regained, Browne worked a long front kick to the body, connecting several times while threatening to the head. Eventually, the 31-year-old found his range, driving the ball of his foot squarely into Overeem’s jaw. The hulking Dutchman crumpled to the canvas, and Browne immediately pursued, turning out Overeem’s lights with a pair of heavy hammer fists.
“We looked at his K-1 days and all his UFC fights, and we looked for a common denominator in some of his openings,” said Browne. “We came up with a game plan. I didn’t really execute it when I was lying on the ground crying like a little girl, but when I stood up, all it did was make me angry. I knew I wasn’t going to go back down. I just moved forward and started executing our game plan.”