In the main event of this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 11, Fabricio Werdum took on the surging Travis Browne to decide the next challenger to UFC’s most coveted prize, the heavyweight title.
Since No. 1 ranked contender Fabricio Werdum has returned to the Octagon he has looked nothing short of dominant, but coming into Saturday’s fight it was Browne who was being tabbed as the next challenger to the heavyweight throne.
In his last two outings, Travis “Hapa” Browne has looked outstanding in putting away both Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in the first round. The athletic and imposing Browne has been known for his power on the feet for the better part of his career, but of late it has been Browne’s fearsome take down defense that has garnered much of the attention for the title eliminator with Werdum and a potential matchup against Cain Velasquez.
On paper Browne could’ve presented an interesting matchup with the champion Velasquez, but we’ll have to wait on that answer as it was Werdum who put on the show Saturday night. He battered the 6-foot-7 Hawaiian for the better part of five rounds after weathering an early onslaught to dominate the highly touted Browne.
In his three return bouts against Roy Nelson, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Travis Browne, “Vai Cavalo” has displayed a vastly improved standup arsenal, which can be much attributed to his time spent with legendary Muay Thai coach Rafael Cordeiro.
Against Browne, who was thought to be the superior striker, the Jiu-Jitsu world champion threw crisp combinations on the feet. He showed his maturity as a striker by mixing up his speed and power to throw off his opponent and using kicks to keep the fight out of the range of Browne’s ruthless right hand.
If there is one knock on Werdum’s nearly flawless victory is that it was over a winded opponent. Werdum looked remarkably fresh after his five-round victory, but it was against an extremely tired opponent. Browne looked completely spent after the initial round, and though Werdum started to tee off, he let off the gas near the end of the fight.
This will not be a luxury that is afforded to him against the UFC Heavyweight Champion and former All-American Wrestler from Arizona State University in Velasquez. From the first round to the closing bell Velasquez is going to keep the same insane pace on Werdum until the fight is over or the new title challenger can find a way to stop him.
Though much of Browne’s tiring can be attributed to the pressure and suffocating grappling of Werdum, it leaves a question mark over the No. 1 contender’s head that champion Velasquez is famous for answering. So far the only man to solve the heavyweight champion’s puzzle is Junior Dos Santos, who stopped early in the first round the champion in the first meeting of the epic trilogy; though Dos Santos was soundly defeated in their following matchups. It appears the only way to combat the Velasquez freight train is to stop it before it can ever pick up speed.
Werdum has showed the ability to finish a seemingly unbeatable before in his career as he tapped out Fedor Emelianenko in their famous contest under the now defunct Strikeforce banner. Werdum caught the MMA legend in a triangle-armbar combination as the Russian dove into his stunned opponent’s guard to end matters early and continue his famous 28 fight unbeaten streak.
Knowing the danger that Werdum presents every heavyweight, Velasquez included, it is likely that the champion will take his time and continue his methodical onslaught on the feet before engaging a less fresh Werdum on the canvas.
Werdum has been proving naysayers wrong since returning to the UFC and has laughed his way to the bank in earning a title shot, but the buck stops at Velasquez. Despite his aggressive and non-stop attack, the champion fights smart. Velasquez will be well aware of what Werdum is bringing to the table and will nullify the attack of the rangy challenger with barrages of punches against the cage and a breakneck pace. There is no doubt Werdum is for real, but the champ keeps his belt.