The quietly underappreciated UFC Fight Night 40 card delivered on every high note, including an unforgettable welterweight scrap between Matt Brown and Erick Silva on Saturday.
As the lights dimmed in the crowded U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Brown emerged from the dressing room to an overwhelming ovation. Thousands of Ohio natives stood on their feet in celebration of the return of "The Immortal," a hometown hero.
Avenged Sevenfold’s “Hail to the King” reverberated throughout the arena as Brown walked to the cage, reminding the world that the true king of welterweight contenders had yet to be crowned.
From the moment that referee Herb Dean gave the go-ahead, Brown and Silva relentlessly pushed forward with the same goal in mind but for different reasons.
On one hand, Silva was an on-the-bubble contender who was looking to seize a prodigious opportunity to finally break into the Top 10 ranks. Brown, on the other hand, was the rugged journeyman who was returning from a back injury and intent on proving his placement as a legitimate title contender.
Early in the first round, Silva came within seconds of crushing Brown’s dream of fighting for a world title with a pair of devastating body kicks that put the welterweight contender on his knees.
But Brown’s battle-tested heart wouldn’t be denied.
In the face of adversity, he found a way out and turned the tables on Silva, who obviously blew his gas tank in a desperate attempt to finish the fight early. Within seconds, the entire complexion of the fight was like night and day as Brown began unloading a barrage of unanswered strikes.
Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree with jovial reactions to the Cincinnati slugfest.
One of the BEST rds I’ve witnessed!!! Silva drops brown with a body kick, gets back control. Brown gets out then lays a beating!!! #UFN40— Sarah Kaufman (@mmasarah) May 11, 2014
That was the best round I've ever seen in MMA, ever. Damn.— Michael Chiesa (@MikeMav22) May 11, 2014
@IamTheImmortal is the man! My goodness what a fight! Gets u so excited! He broke him!— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) May 11, 2014
By the time the third round rolled around, Silva’s ability to stand on his own two feet was testament to a toughness and grit that can’t be measured. The curtain finally closed on the Brazilian after Brown secured a takedown and began teeing off with punches and elbows from open guard.
Dean had no choice but to step in at 2:11 of the third round to save Silva from himself.
“I just did what I do,” Brown said in the cage after the fight. “I didn’t feel my best at all tonight. It was my first main event, in my home state, close to my hometown. The pressure got to me a little bit. Once I started feeling the groove of the fight, I started putting things together.”
Brown and Silva’s performance on Saturday night epitomizes everything we love about MMA.
A love for fighting isn’t only based on the understanding of complicated techniques or strategic game plans. The love is drawn from an innate human desire to conquer mountainous feats when we are at our most vulnerable.
As children tucked away in our warm beds, we often dreamt of slaying the dragon and overcoming obstacles. The image of the dragon embodies life’s unending battles and our desperate bid to overcome—through blood, sweat and tears.
Not everyone has what it takes to step into the cage, but the opportunity to live vicariously through those who do make it all worthwhile.
Brown’s ability to fight back from adversity and Silva’s unflinching bravado resonated in some form or another with each of us. The bout represented human competition stripped to its purest form. In a battle of instinctive wills, both Brown and Silva put it all on the line with the sole hope of slaying the dragon and overcoming an obstacle.
For fans, it was fulfilling just to watch them do it.
Jordy McElroy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA writer for Rocktagon.