A puffologist's view of Matt Brown, the UFC's great unsung contender

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s hard not to be a Matt Brown connoisseur, but there are plenty of people to this day still resisting the urge. Why this is exactly I’m not totally sure, but I suspect it has something to do with the wide margin of his primal-to-commercial ratio (which is something like 150-to-1).

Matt Brown, it can be said, covers the fetishistic need for violence, but doesn’t do much for our helpless devotion towards hype. It’s all very confusing.

Whatever the case may be, heading into Saturday night’s fight with Erick Silva the facts speak for themselves -- Brown, who was on a dark ledge after losing four of five bouts, has now won six fights in a row, and those wins have come against guys who felt pretty good coming in. Stephen Thompson was the day’s buzz fighter, until Brown cut him down to size. Mike Pyle had won four UFC fights in a row and Jordan Mein was on a three-fight pan-promotional run when each crashed headfirst into the "Immortal" brick wall.

These weren’t stumblebums; they were just unfortunates. And the truth of the matter is…Brown does things to a man.

After a run-in with him in Seattle, Mike Swick just sort of stopped fighting and began opening gyms on the Phuket Province. Brown personally shipped Luis Ramos to Seoul, South Korea, and the last ode-to-Ric Flair woo that Chris Cope let up was on his way to meet Brown in the Octagon. Cope was wheezing like a busted accordion on his way out.

But because none of these fighters were ranked high in the welterweight hierarchy, the tendency is to discount what Brown has accomplished, even if he looks more urgent, more incredibly rounded, and more completely pissed off each time out. Heading into Saturday night’s main event, Brown enters as the Great Unsung.

Not that being unsung is his fault. He’s tried and tried again to be sung, baby, but the choir ain’t having it.

He was supposed to fight the highly-regarded Carlos Condit in December in his first "big name" test, but had to pull out with an injury. Before that, the names were changing in front of him -- Mein was supposed to be Dan Hardy, you might remember, and Pyle was meant to be Thiago Alves. Seems like each time Brown’s been scheduled to fight a catapult name something happens.

And yet…and yet it hasn’t mattered who those dark eyes have lit upon, the prehistoric look Brown carries in the cage remains chillingly undiscriminating. No thoughts, just all predator. That’s how he fights, too. He’s finished five of the six guys on his recent run. No such thing as points fighting when talking about Matt Brown.

All of that doesn’t mean we expect him to win. Despite the streak and the shark-like attitude, the Brazilian Erick Silva is nearly a two-to-one favorite heading into UFC Fight Night 40 in Cincinnati, not far from Brown’s hometown of Columbus. Vegas oddsmakers, who deal in general perception, haven’t come around to Brown, just as those in the "he hasn’t beaten anybody" set haven’t. More proof is needed for people to feel comfortable thinking of Brown as anything elite. Unfortunately, a win over the 29-year old Silva -- who has thus far hovered between untapped and realized potential -- won’t likely earn him anything resembling a title shot. Just as a seventh consecutive win against a non-top 10 opponent won’t quiet his critics.

Not that the criticism isn’t (mostly) fair, either. After all, Brown did go on the skids not that long ago, losing to a bunch of people somewhat unceremoniously before blazing back like a phoenix. When he fought John Howard in 2011, it was one of those loser-goes-home deals. He had lost three fights in a row and was the farthest thing from title-relevant as they come. He was far nearer to pink slips than gold accessories.

Still -- and we’ve come to realize this is his genius -- Brown bounced back. Bouncing back is what he does. It’s how he scored the most apt nickname in the business, "Immortal." Remember, the dude died one night in the silo-town of Xenia, Ohio from a heroin overdose (!), and came storming back to life. Not many people can claim to be rock & roll’s incarnate like Matt Brown can. Unless you’re a Goth, immortality isn’t always logical. Then again, most things about Brown defies what you might call "logic." When statistician Reed Kuhn told him his striking stats were actually pretty excellent, Brown added, "ninety percent of the time I knock them out every time."

Every damn time, Matt Brown (ninety percent of the time). That sounds about freaking right.

If he wins on Saturday to make it seven in a row, that’ll get him a couple of inches closer to…relevance? A top-five name? A title shot?...it’s hard to say exactly. And if he loses? Well, then let this be a raised glass on the eve of Brown’s quiet return to mortality. In fact, mark this Brown connoisseur’s words down as proof on the historical record, that at one time, against convention and all things holy, there was such a thing as a near contender named Matt Brown…


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