Top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne squared off for a shot at Cain Velasquez's belt in the main event of UFC on FOX 11 last night (Sat., April 19, 2014) from Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
Browne brought the momentum of three straight "Knockout of the Night"-winning victories over noted strikers Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett. The 6'7" Greg Jackson-trained product had evolved to a new breed of heavyweight; one who mixed speed, athleticism and power in never-before-seen ways.
Werdum had won three straight himself, but to much less fanfare. He was last seen submitting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC on Fuel TV 10 back in June 2013. "Vai Cavalo" was a decided underdog against Browne, but he didn't get the memo, instead locking up a massive win in Florida.
The fight started with Werdum snapping a punch while eating a low kick from Browne. "Hapa" went for a headkick, but Werdum unleashed a combo. Browne sought some knees in the clinch, and then missed on a huge looping right. Browne suddenly had Werdum in trouble with shots up against the cage, but somehow Werdum persevered to score a huge rushing double leg, the first Browne had ever suffered in the Octagon.
Werdum smothered Browne, but "Hapa" eventually broke free to snap some kicks. Werdum was landing clean shots and solid low kicks. Browne landed a glancing spinning head kick, but ate a hard uppercut from "Vai Cavalo." A spinning back kick came from Browne, and Werdum ended the exhausting first round by landing some clean shots on "Hapa."
A quick low blow came at the start of the second, after which Werdum landed a low kick and Browne a high kick. Werdum took down Browne once more and gained his back, sinking in a hook. "Vai Cavalo" went to work with head and arm control from the half guard, seeking an arm triangle. He nailed Browne with some knees in side control, hitting him with hard punches. Werdum sought an armbar, but an exhausted Browne got out. "Hapa's" punches were lumbering and losing power fast as Werdum landed a good knee to finish the frame.
Werdum landed a flurry to start the third. Werdum nailed him with a sharp spinning backfist, followed by more precise shots. "Vai Cavalo" threw a spinning sweep, and then baited Browne to join him on the ground, He wouldn't, and Werdum got back up to land a body kick. Browne landed some shots, but Werdum ate them to unload on Browne, landing a knee and a big combination. Werdum tripped Browne, and then landed another spinning backfist. A flying knee followed, and then both a head kick and body kick. Werdum sealed the round with another sharp combo.
The fourth round saw Werdum work his jab and more low kicks as the pace began to slow considerably. Both fighters were noticeably tired, but Werdum still pushed forward with strikes. Browne finally landed a shot, but action was halted by a low blow to Werdum. "Vai Cavalo" found a home for some uppercuts and ate a hard right hand. Werdum's overall striking remained accurate as another round was in the books.
The fifth and final round started with Werdum securing another takedown. Browne got up and the fighters traded jabs. Browne ate some more significant strikes and was running out of time to make this fight turn in his favor. Werdum snapped more and more pinpoint jabs on Browne's face, switching to more powerful right hands. Browne didn't appear to have enough gas left to finish this fight. A bloodied "Hapa" ate hard punches until the final bell sounded, losing a very one-sided unanimous decision.
Werdum looked amazing while scoring one of the biggest wins of his career. Usually known for his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, he proved that his Muay Thai is quickly catching up to his ground expertise.
"Vai Cavalo" is set to meet Velasquez in the main event of UFC's first-ever event in Mexico. He'll have his hands full with the grinding champion, but Velasquez will be coming back off another shoulder surgery, and he was knocked out by Junior dos Santos the last time that happened. Werdum may not be "Cigano" on the feet, but he apparently relishes the underdog role.
He had better, because he's going to be a substantial one when Velasquez returns.
For Browne, a chance at glory slipped through his fingers. He was thoroughly outclassed in striking, the area in which he was perceived to have his biggest advantage.
"Hapa" has time to right the wrongs of this loss, but he needs to work on his conditioning. He appeared to slow greatly after his initial burst, failing to make the grade in a fight that didn't end in the first round. It was uncharted territory for him, and it showed.
There are still plenty of potentially exciting bouts for "Hapa." A bout with Roy Nelson, who recently got off the snide at April 11's UFC Fight Night 39 in Abu Dhabi, would make for a great battle of power slugging and iron-chinned competitors. A returning Mark Hunt would also match up with Browne well.
Fabricio Werdum solidified a coveted UFC title shot with a surprising five-round domination of Travis Browne. Can "Vai Cavalo" continue his improbable run by knocking off a dominant Cain Velasquez?