Fabricio Werdum solidified his standing as the top contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division with a convincing unanimous decision over Travis Browne in the main event of a Fox card in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday night.
Werdum earned the right to challenge champion Cain Velasquez, likely in Mexico City in November. The jiu-jitsu black belt was able to outclass Browne despite the majority of the fight being contested on their feet.
Browne, who had won three straight fights by first-round knockout, looked like he may be able to extend that streak when he dropped Werdum early in the contest. Werdum absorbed the shots on the ground, reversed position and took over the fight.
Browne already appeared exhausted when the second round began and resorted to throwing haymakers from the outside for much of the remainder of the five rounds.
Werdum landed 121 significant strikes, the fourth most landed by a UFC heavyweight in a single fight.
“This was the best fight of my career. I trained so hard for this one. I worked hard on every part of my game. Boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, everything. I knew how good Travis was and I wanted to show everyone that I’m ready for the title shot,” Werdum said. “I’m looking forward to fighting Cain Velasquez. That championship means everything in this sport and I’m excited to have the opportunity to show that I can win the title.”
In a women’s bantamweight bout, Miesha Tate dropped the opening round before rallying to win the final two in a unanimous decision victory over Liz Carmouche.
Both women had previously dropped title fights to champion Ronda Rousey.
Lightweight Donald Cerrone landed a short left hook that dropped Edson Barboza in the first round, then followed him to the ground to win by rear-naked choke at 3:15.
Barboza appeared to be getting the better of Cerrone up to that point.
“I definitely wish I could’ve gotten that win without taking so much damage from him at first,” Cerrone said. “The shots he hit me with finally woke me up and I kind of snapped out of it.”
Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero won his fourth straight fight with a unanimous decision over Las Vegas Brad Tavares in a middleweight bout.
Romero, who competed for Cuba in 2000, opened a massive cut on Tavares’ forehead with a standing elbow in the second round.
Tavares, who had won five straight, could never settle into an offensive rhythm against the aggressive Romero.
The preliminary card was highlighted by a star lightweight prospect remaining undefeated and the successful return of a former welterweight contender.
Khabib Nurmagomedov improved to 22-0, including 6-0 in the UFC, with another dominant performance in a unanimous decision win over Rafael dos Anjos.
Thiago Alves, who last fought in March 2012, returned from several injuries to win a unanimous decision over Seth Baczynski.
Alves lost a decision to then-champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 in 2009, starting a 2-4 stretch before his two-year leave due to injury.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.