If top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum thought he was going to be riding the pine until Cain Velasquez returned from injury, he'd better think again.
Especially after last night.
Travis Browne put the rest of the 265-pound division on notice by knocking out Josh Barnett on the main card of the UFC 168 pay-per-view (PPV) event, which took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 28, 2013.
And it only took 60 seconds (watch the video here).
With his upset victory over "The Warmaster, " Browne (16-1) has now won three straight fights by way of devastating knockout, one that includes a first-round finish over former DREAM, Strikeforce and K-1 heavyweight kingpin Alistair Overeem.
That makes it hard to put him behind Werdum in the 265-pound pecking order.
By comparison, "Vai Cavalo" has also claimed three in a row. But using Roy Nelson for a punching bag, planishing Mike Russow and armbarring a geriatric Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira just doesn't compare, since none of those fighters are currently ranked in the top 10.
At best you could call them even.
That said, Browne has momentum on his side. Werdum hasn't competed since June and in his defense, probably would have already been booked for a title fight had Velasquez emerged from his most recent title defense unscathed. As it stands, shoulder surgery will keep him benched until summer 2014.
And Werdum (17-5), in all likelihood, will not be allowed to wait for him. In fact, UFC President Dana White intimated as much at the UFC 168 post-fight press conference, as well as on FOX Sports 1.
Nor should he. With Daniel Cormier dropping to light heavyweight, Junior dos Santos coming off a loss and Antonio Silva dealing with testosterone issues, there really is no one left for Browne to fight who wouldn't be considered a step in reverse.
See for yourself:
1. Junior Dos Santos
2. Fabricio Werdum
3. Daniel Cormier
4. Antonio Silva
5. Travis Browne
6. Josh Barnett
7. Mark Hunt
8. Alistair Overeem
9. Frank Mir
10. Stipe Miocic
Werdum vs. Browne also gives fans a clear-cut number one contender.
You can also look at the above rankings and make a case for prolonging the next title fight as long as possible, since we may get into reruns (again) after Velasquez fights the winner, particularly if the champ retains. I don't see any other name on that list that screams I GOT NEXT.
Then again, so does Browne. Unless the Brazilian is mysteriously "injured" and "Hapa" happens to fight Velasquez , then we can have the title picture locked up for the rest of 2014. It's an outside chance, no question, but it's not like we haven't seen it before.
See you next year.
For complete UFC 168: "Weidman vs. Silva 2" results, including play-by-play coverage, click here.