Posted 04/17/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC on Fox 11: Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne Preview

MMA has a long history in the state of Florida from Seth Petruzelli knocking out Kimbo Slice to…uh…Matt Hughes beating Sean Sherk and…uh…a handful of Fight Night events in Hollywood. Saturday’s Big Fox card is the UFC’s first event in the state since June of 2012. While that event was headlined by a rematch between flyweights Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall, UFC on Fox 11 features a heavyweight clash between Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne backed by an entertaining undercard.

Vai Cavalo vs. That Guy

Fabricio Werdum hasn’t been seen since June of last year, choosing to wait for his title shot against Cain Velasquez. Velasquez, in a worrying pattern, required surgery on a torn labrum, forcing Werdum to choose between rusting on the sidelines or taking another fight. He chose the latter.

He’ll face off against Travis Browne, who went from being “some guy” to a guy on a three-fight winning streak over familiar heavyweight names Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett. A win should earn Browne Werdum’s title shot at Velasquez, and then you think about the state of the heavyweight division and sigh.

At this point, the UFC is probably indifferent to either Werdum or Browne opposite Velasquez. Werdum has a longer track record dating back to Pride, but he’s been out for nearly a year. A victory over Werdum would solidify Browne’s credentials, but there’s still the very real fact that Browne just looks like a guy, and no one really cares about him outside the fight community despite five finish of the night bonuses. Neither fighter really offers anything resembling a threat to Velasquez’s reign.

What once looked like a heavyweight renaissance now looks like a decaying scrap heap. Of the 15 fighters in the UFC’s official rankings, only a single heavyweight is under the age of 30. (That fighter? Stefan Stuve, who has been out of action for a year thanks to a heart condition.) Velasquez has only defeated 3 of the 15, but given the attrition of the division, no one stands out as a viable contender. Even Stipe Miocic, a relative young man at 31, seems unlikely to get by a Junior dos Santos and is at best a coinflip against Werdum or Browne and a marginal favorite against some of the other ranked fighters.

So the division awaits Jon Jones, who faces Glover Teixeira later this month, and really only should be eyeing a money fight with Daniel Cormier and maybe a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson at light heavyweight, another division chock full of old men on their way out.

One Woman Show

Dana White once proclaimed that women would never fight in the UFC, and would point to the division’s shallowness as the reason. Then Ronda Rousey came along and put a twinkle in his eye, and now women are fighting in the UFC.

Dana wasn’t exactly wrong when he pointed to the division’s (lack of) depth. I noted during Wednesday’s matchup between Sarah Kaufman and Leslie Smith that the best measure of Rousey’s dominance is watching any other women’s fight in the UFC. Rousey is so far ahead of the rest of her colleagues both technically and athletically, that it’s no wonder the UFC is entertaining bringing Gina Carano in for a one-off.

Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche (and Kaufman, etc.) are fine enough fighters, but they don’t do much in the way of inspiring thoughts of a robust division. And this is a real worry now. Rousey’s filming movies and she talks about doing things in four-year cycles, and the bell is tolling on those four years. Rousey’s likely to leave within the next year or two (unless she really prefers the training and face-punching over the relative comforts of a movie production), and, well, who steps into the spotlight when she’s gone? And not only that, who provides the affirmation that the women belong on the same stage as their male UFC peers that Rousey currently provides?

Fat Bottomed Cards Make the Rocking World Go ‘Round

Werdum and Browne is a whatever main event and Tate and Carmouche a whatever co-main, but this card’s strength is in its undercard. Donald Cerrone versus Edson Barboza and Rafael dos Anjos versus Khabib Nurmagomedov make up two relevant lightweight bouts with serious title ramifications. Cerrone and Barboza get the main card nod despite both dos Anjos and Nurmagomedov being higher ranked, but that’s neither here nor there.

In the main card opener, Yoel Romero returns to fight Brad Tavares. Romero’s been a bundle of violence since entering the UFC, but Tavares represents his biggest challenge since a loss to Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in Strikeforce. Romero’s 36, though, and a loss to Tavares seriously set backs any aspirations of him making a run at the title

But that’s not all! Thiago Alves makes his return after two years away from the sport. Injuries took him out of an expected fight against Siyar Bahadurzada in July of 2012 and a fight against Matt Brown in August 2013. At one point, he was a mainstay at the top of the welterweight division, combining with Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck to form a stiff barrier of entry to champion Georges St-Pierre. After his loss to St-Pierre at UFC 100, Alves lost three of his next five, including fights against Jon Fitch, Rick Story, and Martin Kampmann. He returns to find a division full of turnover. Fitch is gone. Kampmann de facto retired. Story out of the top 15. St-Pierre’s been replaced as champion by Johny Hendricks. He’ll have an uphill battle ahead of him to climb back to the top of the division, but if the past two years have rejuvenated his body, Alves, at 30, is still young enough to make another run.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter


Mike Fagan