Looks like UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez has his next date lined up for some Saturday night later on in the year.
Topping off a great night of fights, Fabricio Werdum bested Travis Browne over the allotted five rounds and advanced to a UFC Heavyweight Championship title fight, potentially in Mexico around December time, depending on how soon the champ recovers from his shoulder surgery.
While he is a highly respected competitor, Werdum’s victory, or perhaps his manner of victory, came as a surprise to some.
Both men headed in to the bout on the back of a three-fight win streak over tough competition, though Browne was the one favoured by the bookies and the like, and was expected to light the multiple world BJJ Brazilian champion up on the feet with his supposed advantages in athleticism and power.
This was not the case.
Both Browne and Werdum came out with the intention of laying down a marker early and begun to swing, trading shots at a controlled pace. This was to continue until Browne dropped Werdum with a big right hand and swarmed with hammerfists. This exchange would signal a setting of the tone for the fight, just not how Browne would have wanted.
Browne was unable to stop Werdum here, and in the scramble to their feet, Werdum secured a takedown on the big Hawaiian, the first that he had succumbed to in his UFC career, and got to work with his jiu-jitsu, smothering Browne, but ultimately failing to lock anything before Browne made his way back to his feet.
The pair resumed their tit for tat striking exchanges, but it was clear that Browne was not full of life, and Werdum started to take control of proceedings on the feet, clipping Browne with increasing regularity, until he had Browne rocked at the end of the first round.
The second round had a familiar feel to it, with Werdum securing a takedown and dominating on the ground, with the striking exchanges evermore so in Werdum’s favour, the only difference being that Browne by this point was beginning to run on empty.
That Browne began to gas this quickly in to the fight, knowing that he signed on for a potential five rounds and hailing from a camp as respected, and regimentally precise as Jackson’s MMA was shocking to see. However, from the post-fight presser, it was mentioned that Browne was suspected to have broken a rib in the first round, which would of course affected the big man’s breathing.
It was still clear to see that Browne had the skills in his locker, just not the energy to pull them off, from this point onward; near enough every shot was telegraphed and Browne became easy pickings for Werdum.
By the time we reach the third round, Werdum is just plain toying with Browne. Mixing his strikes beautifully, the Brazilian begins to land far more than he misses, goading the lumbering Browne, as he lurches from one failed power shot to the next, with each limb thrown having less behind it than the previous.
The only real respite Browne receives is in the 4th round, as Werdum looks to coast to a decision, safe in the knowledge that he has secured a title shot and that any overexertion on his part could still be countered by a heavyweight blow, although it is apparent that this is unlikely due to the laboured state of Browne.
The 5th follows the same pattern, although Werdum does secure another takedown, and Browne on occasion throws strikes with some semblance of authority.
Judges score the fight 49-46, 50-45, 50-45, all in Werdum’s favour.
Prior to this fight, I had no real interest in seeing a Velasquez-Werdum matchup and much preferred the idea of the younger, more explosive Browne squaring off with the champ. The memories of Werdum’s pitiful antics against Alistair Overeem and even his KO defeat at the hands of Junior dos Santos from back in his first stint with the UFC were still reasonably fresh, leaving me to feel that any potential bout with Velasquez would be bordering on the squash variety.
Well, on today of all days, hallelujah! I have seen the light!
While I still think you would have to favour Velasquez in a Werdum pairing, as you would in any pairing with any heavyweight in the game right now, the quiet and continued evolution of Fabricio Werdum as a fighter ensures that you cannot afford to sleep on a talent like this.
Fabricio Werdum is 36 years old, an age where we normally see a fighter that is content with the skills he has already accrued, satisfied just to continue competing at the highest level in the sport, particularly if you are as highly skilled in BJJ as Werdum can rightly claim to be.
However, since his 2008 release from the UFC, Werdum set about building upon his pre-existing tools, and under the schooling of coach Rafael Coredeiro, Werdum’s striking has improved exponentially.
We have seen glimpses of this improvement, particularly in Werdum’s 2012 clash with Roy Nelson, but the striking clinic that Werdum exposed Browne to last night, was something we have never seen ‘Vai Cavalo’ demonstrate.
With Werdum’s high level jiu-jitsu, and his ever-improving standup, Cain Velasquez may well find himself in a fight when he returns, rather than a routine defence.