Billed as the best fight card to land on the FOX airwaves to date and considered one of the most complete collection of bouts from top to bottom of the year, UFC on FOX: Werdum vs. Browne delivered from start to finish.
While the 13-fight event was short on finishes — only four bouts ended inside the distance — there was still plenty to talk about inside the Octagon in Orlando.
These are the best moments from Saturday night.
This is The Hit List.
Fabricio Werdum completely outclassed Travis Browne to punch his ticket to a championship match-up with Cain Velasquez later this year.
From the start of the first round through the 25th minute, the Brazilian veteran controlled every aspect of this heavyweight contest, picking at Browne with jabs and stiff right hands throughout, and putting the surging big man on his back or along the cage when the time called for it.
Browne had one surge early in the first round, but when Werdum weathered the storm, the Hawaiian seemed to hit a wall. As he labored to close the distance, the 36-year-old Werdum turned up his output.
Round after round, “Vai Cavalo” happily engaged in the striking battle, driving right hands down the middle, bloodying Browne and calling him on at several points during the battle. While many expected Werdum to have the edge on the ground, he showed on Saturday that his striking is there with the best in the division, out-landing Browne 121-60 in significant strikes according to FightMetric.
This was as one-sided a beating as has been handed out in the heavyweight division in some time and sets up what has quickly become a very intriguing battle between Werdum and Velasquez in the future.
Edson Barboza was getting loose, using his speed to land crisp, clean shots on Donald Cerrone in the early moments of their lightweight contest. Clearly the faster of the two, the Brazilian found his range early, mixing it up, stifling the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter’s advances.
But rather than biting down on his gum shield and charging forward looking to get the shots back right away, “Cowboy” stayed patient, shook out the cobwebs, and delivered a clean left hand between Barboza’s guard that dropped him.
Cerrone was on his back immediately, fishing his arm under Barboza’s neck before the Brazilian knew what was happening, setting his hooks and adjusting his hands once he had the position secured. Seconds later, Barboza was tapping, and a somewhat relieved looking “Cowboy” earned his third consecutive victory.
This might have been a watershed performance for the ornery former WEC contender, as he took the best Barboza had to offer, waited for his opportunity, and exploited the only opening he was presented with the entire fight. That’s not something he’s done in the past, but if it’s something he keeps doing in the future, “Cowboy” is capable of making an entertaining run up the lightweight ladder.
New Contenders Emerge
Khabib Nurmagomedov is a suffocating grappler, and everyone in the lightweight division better start working on a way to escape his clutches or prepare to be added to his growing list of defeated opponents.
Saturday night, “The Eagle” ran his winning streak to 22 consecutive contests with a unanimous decision win over Rafael dos Anjos, establishing himself as the top contender in the lightweight division, for the time being.
With the title tied up until December, the combat sambo specialist will likely have to fight again to retain top spot in the division, but given the way he’s dominated all six men he’s faced inside the Octagon thus far, maintaining his position doesn’t seem out of the question.
In the middleweight ranks, Yoel Romero should be inspiring a similar kind of concern, as the Olympic silver medalist turned in his most complete performance to date, halted Brad Tavares’ five-fight winning streak with a dominant decision victory.
Romero showed off his tremendous wrestling skills for the first time on Saturday, ragdolling the Hawaiian at various times throughout their 15-minute fight. He also continued to show the athleticism and power that makes him a legitimate threat, slicing Tavares open with a nasty short elbow in the second round.
While middleweight has become a deep and talented division over the last year and change, Romero very much in the mix at 185-pounds, and should find himself in a marquee match-up next time out.
Return of The Pitbull
The last time Thiago Alves stepped into the Octagon, Ronda Rousey had yet to win the women’s bantamweight title… in Strikeforce.
That staggering reality, noted on Twitter by MMA Junkie’s Dann Stupp prior to his bout with Seth Baczynski, underscored the importance of Saturday’s outing for Alves, the former welterweight title challenger who had missed the previous two years with an assortment of injuries. His comeback was a long time coming, and with the Orlando crowd behind him, “The Pitbull” picked up his first win since UFC 138.
Though he took a few shots and ended up with some swelling around his eyes and some dripping from his nose, Alves looked impressive, utilizing a steady diet of leg kicks to cut down Baczynski’s mobility and allow him to land heavy hands en route to a unanimous decision win.
With his successful return now in the rearview mirror, it will be interesting to see if the not-yet-31-year-old Alves is able to make another run up the welterweight ranks, but for now, it’s just good to have him back in the fold.
Tucked away on the Fight Pass portion of the preliminary card, Dustin Ortiz and Ray Borg engaged in a highly competitive, wildly entertaining battle that showcased the technical awesomeness that is perpetually on display in the UFC flyweight division.
Fighting for the second time this month and making his organizational debut on short notice, Borg didn’t look out of place for a minute, chaining together takedowns and transitions to threating Ortiz throughout the 15-minute affair. On the other side, the Roufusport product displayed his smooth all-around game, holding his own in the grappling exchanges and getting the better of things when they were fought on the feet.
This contest highlighted everything that is enjoyable about the flyweights—the action was technical and exciting, and the pace never dropped below 100mph. It was a great attack-and-defend encounter that deserves a spot on this list of the top moments of the night.