(“…he did WHAAAAT to Josh Barnett?!!” Photo via Barry Hartman/MMAFightCorner)
With heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez out nursing another shoulder injury for the foreseeable future, many MMA fans have pondered what’s next for top contender Fabricio Werdum. Currently on a three-fight win streak since returning to the UFC, Werdum is fresh off a second round submission of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC on FUEL 10 (*cries, self-immolates*) and is anxious to stay busy. According to an interview with MMAFighting, Werdum has already agreed to face Hawaiian hitman Travis “Hapa” Browne in March based purely on this fact:
I had a meeting with Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta and told them I wanted to wait, but then I thought about it and saw that I would need to wait too much before my next fight. You don’t remember what you don’t see.
We don’t have a date 100 percent confirmed yet, but I believe it’s going to be in March. I already know that it’s going to be a main event, so it’s a five-round fight. He doesn’t have a good cardio, so that’s good for me. He’s explosive when the fight starts, tries to finish it quickly, with jumping stuff and knockouts, so I see a lot of openings to defeat him.
Apparently Browne’s back-to-back-to-back knockouts of Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem (who has split a pair of contests with Werdum) and Josh Barnett in 2013 have done little to impress Werdum, who was equally critical of Browne’s ground game, stating, ”We have trained together a few times three years ago, and he knows how the training was. He knows that he doesn’t have a good ground game.”
Of course, one doesn’t exactly need a good ground game when they posses the power to obliterate anyone who dares shoot in on a takedown against them. Luckily, Werdum has a gameplan for that as well. Sort of.
I won’t go there like (Gabriel) Gonzaga and Barnett did. Barnett looked desperate, he didn’t look like the veteran that he is. The clinch, the takedown, the body lock will eventually happen. I don’t need to shoot for a double leg. His takedown defense and elbows are really good, so I won’t make this mistake. We will fight on the ground eventually.
There is only one thing preventing Browne vs. Werdum from being made official, however. Browne’s previous victory over Barnett was the last fight on his contract, and the Hawaiian is currently in the process of renegotiating a new one. I would imagine that after the year he’s had, we can expect to see Browne’s 28k/28k pay structure increase significantly. Browne’s manager, John Fosco of VFD Marketing, told MMAJunkie that a deal is closed to being reached on by the two parties:
There’s no deal done between the UFC and Travis Browne right now, but all the talks that have been had up to this point indicate that we will be getting something done in the very near future, and they’ve always been fair with Travis.
We were talking about extending an agreement, and the UFC made it very clear that they like Travis and they think he’s a great fighter. But based on his resume of opponents, he hadn’t proven that he could beat the cream of the crop in that division, and that was something we agreed with. Overeem was a great win, but it’s not like it was the second or third time in a row he beat a top 10, let alone a top 5, opponent.
So we were in agreement, and we were willing to take less money for the Barnett fight to prove and put our money where our mouth is that Travis is that guy, and he is that good. The UFC even said they believe it, but they run a business, and he hasn’t done it yet. Because of that, we decided to [not sign a new deal] because they let us.
So, Nation, who do you like in this tentatively-schedule battle between top heavyweights?