SB Nation heavyweight rankings: Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum looms

Esther Lin

As reported earlier this week, Fabricio Werdum will meet Travis Browneat UFC on FOX 11 in Orlando on April 19.

That's good news for a heavyweight division in which many big names are either injured or on a cold streak.

UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is out indefinitely after shoulder surgery. Former champion Junior dos Santos has still yet to send out any signals he's ready for his next fight, after taking a terrible beating from Velasquez in October.

But at least there's the promise of a red-hot No. 1 contender's bout to tide us over until the big dogs return. Werdum is the winner of three in a row and six out of seven. But he also hasn't fought since June -- a submission win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- which was his only fight in the past 18 months. While Werdum is the No. 1 contender, nothing is guaranteed in this sport, and he's decided the benefits of taking another fight outweigh the risks of Octagon rust.

Browne, meanwhile, has simply forced his way into the picture. Three straight first-round knockouts over guys who have all headlined pay-per-views will do that for you. The most recent, of course, was Browne's swift finish of former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett at UFC 168.

That performance was enough to push Browne into a third-place tie with Werdum in the current SB Nation poll, behind Velasquez and dos Santos. Browne received two second-place votes, a third and three fourths; Werdum five thirds and a fourth.

Meanwhile, the heavyweight ranks are a bit depleted at the moment. Daniel Cormier has moved to light heavyweight, making him ineligible here; and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva is ineligible for the length of his suspension for elevated testosterone in the wake of his fight with Mark Hunt.

Even with that, though, there's another interesting top-10 fight on the horizon, as once-beaten Stipe Miocic, who is ranked No. 7, meets resurgent Gabriel Gonzaga, who is tied with Alistair Overeem for No. 8, at UFC on FOX 10.

(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. At heavyweight, this currently affects Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, who is suspended for elevated testosterone levels).

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1. Cain Velasquez (13-1, 60 points): The champ will be out for the bulk of 2014 with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

2, Junior Dos Santos (16-3, 50 points): Whether JDS will be the same fighter he used to be after two wicked beatings from Velasquez remains to be seen, but in the interim, he still hasn't lost to anyone in the Top 10 besides the champ.

3t. Travis Browne (16-1-1, 47 points): If not for tearing a hamstring early against "Bigfoot," Browne could very well be undefeated.

3t. Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1, 47 points): He's gambling his No. 1 contender spot on a Browne fight. The fans are better off for it.

5. Josh Barnett (32-7, 36 points): Never say never, but Barnett's loss to Browne looked like one of those moments when you realize a former champ's title contending days are over.

6. Mark Hunt (9-8-1, 23 points): Putting in a Fight of the Year contender performance is one way to shoot up the rankings. Given the situations with the fighters ahead of him, Hunt's next fight will almost certainly be against someone lower ranked.

7. Stipe Miocic (10-1, 18 points): A quiet and humble fighter, Miocic has a golden opportunity to let his fists do the talking in front of a network television audience.

8t. Gabriel Gonzaga (16-7, 15 points): Gonzaga's only loss in the past three years was to Browne.

8t. Alistair Overeem (36-13-3, 1 no-contest, 10 points): UFC 169 fight with Mir is do-or-die time Overeem, who has had less power and less of a gas tank since returning from his steroid suspension.

10. Frank Mir (16-8, 11 points): At the point, Mir, loser of three in a row, is basically ranked because of the lack of division depth.

Others receiving votes: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 5, Roy Nelson 1.

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