Earlier this week the UFC announced their return to Orlando which will feature a heavyweight number one contender bout between number two ranked Fabricio Werdum and number three ranked Travis Browne. The bout brings in high levels of interest because each man can finish the fight instantly but in very different ways than their opponent. We’ll make an early analysis of the fight below:
Fabricio Werdum has vastly improved his striking since his first run in the UFC. We saw glimpses of the improvement in his StrikeForce bout with K-1 champion Alistair Overeem. Werdum ultimately lost a decision to Overeem but was the aggressor in the stand-up forcing the kickboxing champion to backup multiple times. His best striking performance came at UFC 143 when he defeated Roy Nelson by unanimous decision. In that bout, Werdum was always two steps ahead of Nelson. Werdum used great kicks and knees to keep his opponent off balance. Whenever Nelson would get inside Werdum’s reach advantage, Werdum would grab the Muay Thai plum and unload a bevy of knees which were by far his best offense of the fight. When Werdum gets into the cage to face Browne it will have been nearly ten months since his last appearance. It will be interesting to see if Werdum will have added more wrinkles to his striking game in that time.
Travis Browne is currently riding a three fight knockout streak over the likes of Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett. Browne is not much of a combination striker and is more of a “one-hitter quitter” kind of guy. All of his UFC wins by knockout have been the product of one extremely hard punch with very little technical set-up. His knockouts of Gabriel Gonzaga and Josh Barnett were the result of brutal elbows to the side of his opponent’s head while they were shooting for the takedown. Against Overeem, Browne had to weather and early storm before hitting the Dutchman with a fight ending front kick. Browne’s best striking performance came against Stefan Struve. Browne didn’t throw any fancy combos in this fight but his ability to pickup on Struve’s striking patterns and adjust mid-fight was spectacular. Almost every time Struve would create distance between Browne and himself, he would initiate the striking with a flying knee. Browne noticed it and leveled Struve with the best superman punch knockout in the history of the UFC.
Verdict: Werdum has shown a more diverse striking game in the UFC than Browne but that’s not enough to get him the nod here. Browne is an expert at exploiting holes in defenses and can end the fight with a single strike. If the fight stays on the feet look for Travis Browne to have a steep advantage.
Neither man in this matchup is what I would call a wrestling dynamo. Werdum is a ground specialist but he rarely shoots for the traditional double or single leg takedown. When Werdum wants to get a fight to the mat he utilizes very good trips from the clinch. Some of his best trip work came in the third round of his 2009 StrikeForce bout with Antonio Silva. Outside of the trips (which in and of themselves are very few and far between) Werdum mostly gets fights to the floor by pulling guard or pretending to be hurt by strikes in hopes of his opponent getting over-aggressive.
Browne also does not shoot for many takedowns. The most takedowns Browne had landed in any fight was his UFC 135 bout with Rob Broughton where he landed three. Browne does boast an impressive 100% takedown defense which is something to consider should Werdum try to take him down.
Verdict: If this fight hits the mat it will likely be via Werdum pulling guard. This is by far the hardest aspect of the fight to grade since neither of these guys show much offensive wrestling. If I had to choose someone in this category it would be Travis Browne due to his 100% takedown defense but in reality it is probably a tie.
Werdum is a second degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with multiple ADCC, IBJJF, and Pan American Jiu-Jitsu grappling contest wins while Browne is only a purple belt with two submission wins in his MMA career. That should tell you enough about how the grappling is matched up. Werdum has looked nothing short of excellent on the ground in his MMA career. In his last outing he became the second man to ever submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in MMA competition. Wherever Werdum sees an opening on the ground he immediately attacks and usually submits his opponent. Werdum’s submissions are uncanny but his ability to transition from position to position is what makes his ground game special. In his bout with Nogueira, Werdum was able to trip Big Nog to the floor and move to mount within seconds. It was amazing to see how he schooled such a high level grappler in Nogueira.
Should Travis Browne find himself on the mat with Fabricio Werdum the fight will likely be seconds from over. Browne is no slouch on the ground but is nowhere near Werdum’s level. Browne’s two submission wins have come against Chad Griggs and a guy named Tom Lozano who are not very impressive guys to submit. While Browne’s offensive Jiu-Jitsu may not be the most vaunted he has escaped a couple of submissions in the UFC. When Browne fought Stefan Struve he had to wiggle his way out of a very tight D’arce choke which was very impressive. Still even with his grappling proficiency, Browne needs to stay off the mat if he wants to beat Werdum
Verdict: Browne is good on the ground but Werdum is a Jiu-Jitsu God. This is the by far the biggest discrepancy in skill between the two men. Fabrico Werdum gets my vote as the better grappler.
When Fabrico Werdum and Travis Browne meet April 19th on FOX it will be one of the best put-together matches of the year. Make sure not to miss it. For all of your pre-fight analysis and predictions stay-tuned to SciFighting.com.