ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Fabricio Werdum became the top contender for the UFC heavyweight title by winning a unanimous decision against Travis Browne 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 last 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 the opening round.
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.
Carmouche had two takedowns in the opening round and held off Tate in the second, but the slow starting Tate got Carmouche in a choke hold with a minute left in the third.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone got Edson Barboza to tap out in the first round in another middleweight battle. Cerrone, whose agent is NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick, caught Barboza with a left to the chin for the knockdown, and got the submission with a naked choke hold at the 3:15 mark. Barboza appeared to have the early advantage, landing 28 strikes.
Yoel Romero stopped Brad Tavares’ five-match win streak by taking a unanimous decision in a middleweight matchup in the main event opener. The 37-year-old Romero, an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, registered three takedowns in the opening five minutes and seven overall while fending off Tavares’ counterattack.