Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic will collide this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2016) at UFC 203 inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. In a rematch of highly-ranked Heavyweights, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let's break it down.
Werdum’s run to the title was extraordinary, demonstrating great fight-to-fight improvement and capping it all off with a fantastic finish to earn the belt. Unfortunately, the Brazilian was far too eager to defend his title, running into the new champion’s right hand quickly. On the other hand, Browne had the misfortune of running into Werdum during his climb to the top, and he was thoroughly abused for five rounds. Given a chance at revenge, Browne could really change his career around with a victory.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs Werdum), Cain Velasquez (UFC 188), Travis Browne (UFC on FOX 11), Mark Hunt (UFC 180)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 198), Alistair Overeem (Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC 90)
Keys to Victory: Werdum entered this sport as a grappling master, and he's still the most dangerous submission fighter in the division. However, under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has developed an aggressive and effective Muay Thai attack.
He may have been knocked out in his last bout, but that's the product of a bit too much aggression and being a Heavyweight. There simply isn't a ton of room for error with so much power behind each punch. It's pretty difficult to tell Werdum what to do in this match up. Frankly, every single tactic he tried worked on Browne, as Werdum utterly dominated "Hapa" on the feet and made him frantic to avoid the grappling as well.
Plus, Werdum's usual mind games were more effective than ever.
Really, the only point of concern is Browne's early offense. The Hawaiian is a very large Heavyweight with big power, so Werdum would be wise to show some caution early on.
Key Wins: Josh Barnett (UFC 168), Alistair Overeem (UFC Fight Night 26), Brendan Schaub (UFC 181)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC on FOX 5), Cain Velasquez (UFC 200), Andrei Arlovski (UFC 187), Antonio Silva (UFC on FX 5)
Keys to Victory: Browne is an athletic and powerful Heavyweight who's been trying to refine his technical boxing game. He's still not all the way there, but his counter punching has improved quite a bit. In the first bout, Browne's major issue was that he gave ground to Werdum. Each time the Brazilian pushed forward, Browne would break his stance and back away, allowing his opponent to quite literally kick the shit out of him.
Before long, Browne's gas tank was shot, as Werdum was routinely digging body kicks into his ribs.
To avoid a similar result, Browne needs to utilize his movement to draw Werdum out and land counters. That doesn't mean he can simply back away and wait; Werdum will just kick him. Instead, Browne needs to step into the pocket with jabs and long punches before pulling back. Werdum is an aggressive fighter and will follow Browne with his hands, which should create opportunities for Browne to land his counter punches.
Bottom Line: It’s a major match up for the Heavyweight division as a whole.
Werdum is fighting to prove that he remains an elite Heavyweight. His loss to Miocic was quick and a bit ugly, which could mean a couple things. If he looks strong here, it simply means he was caught, and the second fight could be very different.
In short, he’s still in the title mix.
However, should Werdum come up short, that loss may indicate a sudden drop off. Werdum has been in the sport a very long time, so such a thing is not impossible and would be the worst case scenario for "Vai Cavalo."
Meanwhile, this is Browne’s chance to recover from all his recent losses. He simply hasn’t looked good in some time, but avenging a loss to the former champion would go a long way in getting him back in the mix. On the whole, the stakes are high for Browne. If he loses, it’s all but confirmed that he is not a real contender.
At UFC 203, Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne will duel in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?