Fabricio Werdum beat up Travis Browne on the feet for five rounds. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Fabricio Werdum made sure he got what he wanted.
Werdum locked up a shot at Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Cain Velasquez with a lopsided unanimous decision over Travis Browne in the UFC on Fox 11 main event on Saturday at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. The Brazilian outstruck and outgrappled the monstrous Hawaiian for a majority of their five-round encounter, pulling 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 scores from the cageside judges.
Outside of a burst of punches that had “Vai Cavalo” ducking for cover in the first round, Browne was reduced to a non-factor. Werdum bled his gas tank dry and tortured him with straight punching combinations, knees from the clinch and intermittent kicks to the legs and body. The jab became the Pride Fighting Championships veteran’s most trusted and effective weapon later in the bout, as he bloodied Browne’s nose with repeated fist-to-face contact.
Under the guidance of Kings MMA trainer Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has developed into a complete mixed martial artist. The 36-year-old two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist has showcased improved striking during his current four-fight tear, as he has toppled Browne, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mike Russow and Roy Nelson.
Werdum will next face the challenge of challenges, as he confronts one of the UFC’s most dominant fighters. Currently recovering from shoulder surgery, Velasquez last appeared at UFC 166 in October, when he retained his heavyweight crown with a fifth-round technical knockout against Junior dos Santos at the Toyota Center in Houston. Few men in the sport are as feared as the 31-year-old American Kickboxing Academy ace.
Meanwhile, Browne must head back to the drawing board after just his second professional setback. The Jackson-Wink MMA representative remains one of the elite talents in a shallow division and as such does not figure to fall too far in the heavyweight pecking order. A showdown with the loser of the forthcoming May 31 matchup between dos Santos and Stipe Miocic would prove intriguing.
In wake of UFC on Fox 11 “Werdum vs. Browne,” here are five other matchups that ought to be considered:
Miesha Tate vs. Sarah Kaufman: Reeling after consecutive defeats to Cat Zingano and Ronda Rousey, Tate overcame a lethargic start to outpoint Liz Carmouche by unanimous decision in the co-main event. “Cupcake” closed with a flourish, as she nearly finished it with a rear-naked choke in the third round. The 27-year-old former Strikeforce champion had not posted a victory since she submitted Julie Kedzie with a third-round armbar nearly two years ago. Kaufman last fought at “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale on April 16, when she captured a unanimous verdict from Leslie Smith at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. She owns a May 2009 win over Tate.
Donald Cerrone vs. Josh Thomson: Cerrone reaffirmed his place as one of the UFC’s most consistent entertainers, as he submitted former Ring of Combat champion Edson Barboza with a rear-naked choke 3:15 into the first round of their crackling lightweight showcase. “Cowboy” survived a run-in with Barboza’s lightning-quick hands, stunned the Brazilian with a left jab and pounced for the finish. Cerrone has stopped his last three opponents, two of them inside one round. The gifted but oft-injured Thomson last competed at UFC on Fox 10 in January, when he wound up on the wrong side of a contentious split decision against former lightweight champion Benson Henderson.
Yoel Romero Palacio vs. Costas Philippou-Lorenz Larkin winner: It seems doubtful that anyone in the middleweight division will be lining up to face Palacio after his performance against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 semifinalist Brad Tavares. The Cuban brute tossed him to a fro, split open his scalp with a gorgeous standing elbow and generally made life miserable for Tavares with his unique blend of power, speed and technique. A 2000 Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, Palacio has won all four of his fights inside the Octagon and looks like a serious threat at 185 pounds. Philippou and Carmont will lock horns at UFC Fight Night 41 on May 10 in Cincinnati.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Benson Henderson: Nurmagomedov improved to 22-0 with his unanimous decision over surging Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos. The 25-year-old Dagestani grappler overwhelmed dos Anjos with a series of clinches and takedowns, methodically robbing him of the momentum he had built over the course of a five-fight winning streak. UFC brass clearly has major plans for Nurmagomedov, who could be in position to challenge for the lightweight title sometime in 2015. Henderson would present him with the kind of high-profile opponent he deserves, provided he can get past another Dagestani import, Rustam Khabilov, on June 7 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Thiago Alves vs. Patrick Cote: Alves did not miss a beat, as he returned to the cage for the first time in more than two years and outpointed Seth Baczynski in an action-packed welterweight clash. The 30-year-old American Top Team standout zeroed in on Baczynski’s legs with blistering kicks and paired them with tight power punching combinations to earn 30-27 scores from all three cageside judges. Cote has won seven of his past eight bouts, including a unanimous decision over Kyle Noke at “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale on April 16.