ORLANDO, Fla. » Fabricio Werdum became the top contender for the UFC heavyweight title by winning a unanimous decision against Travis Browne of Kailua in the main event of Saturday’s UFC card at the Amway Arena.
Werdum (18-5-1) earned his fourth victory since rejoining UFC. The judges scored it 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 for the five-round bout, setting up a fight for Werdum against champion Cain Velasquez.
"I proved that I’m ready for a championship fight," Werdum said. "I’m a complete fighter."
Werdum has been the presumptive choice for a title shot for several months, but he elected not to wait around longer than a year while Velasquez recovered from surgery on a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Velasquez won’t be ready to return until late fall after getting hurt in his second victory over Junior Dos Santos in October.
In a news conference on Thursday, President Dana White confirmed that the winner of the main event will fight Velasquez in the UFC’s long-expected debut in Mexico later this year, assuming injuries and the usual nuttiness of the heavyweight division don’t change the plan.
Werdum controlled the fight after withstanding Browne’s attempt for a first-round knockout. UFC officials said Browne broke his right hand and possibly a rib in Round 1.
Werdum came out strong in the second round, landing 15 significant blows to Browne’s six. As Werdum gained confidence, Browne (16-2-1) appeared winded going into the third round and never made a serious challenge over the final part of the fight.
Werdum landed an array of blows late in the third round. After connecting with a spinning backfist that stunned Browne, Werdum landed a barrage of punches, a knee to the head, and then a hard kick as the third round wound down.
After letting off the gas early in the final round, he successfully kept Browne from any last-minute rally and got in a combination of his own.
"I wasn’t trying to risk anything," Werdum said. "I just did a smart fight."
Also Saturday, Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Meisha Tate (14-5) won a unanimous decision against Liz Carmouche (8-5) for her first victory in UFC. All three judges had it 29-28.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone got Edson Barboza to tap out in the first round in another middleweight battle.
Yoel Romero stopped Brad Tavares’ five-match win streak by taking a unanimous decision in a middleweight matchup in the main-event opener.
Dan Ryan, Associated Press