Just five years ago, Fabricio Werdum was cut from the UFC. Five years later, he's the next challenger to the company's heavyweight championship.
Werdum put on a stunning performance in the main event of UFC on FOX 11 on Saturday in Orlando, picking apart Travis Browne en route to a unanimous decision victory. The judges' scores were 49-46, 50-45, and 50-45.
"This was the best fight of my career," Werdum said. "I trained so hard for this one. I worked on every part of my game. … I know how good Travis was and I wanted to show everyone that I'm ready for the title shot."
Conventional wisdom had it that Werdum would dominate the bout if it hit the ground, but Browne had the advantage if the fight was mainly standing. But Werdum controlled all aspects of the fight. Browne actually got the fight's first advantage by getting Werdum to the mat and laying down some heavy hammers, but Werdum got back to his fight and took over the round from there.
And he took over the fight, as well. Werdum scored a takedown in the first round, the first time Browne had ever been taken down in his UFC career. Browne got back up, but was subjected to a dizzying mix of strikes, from knees in the clinch to spinning back fists.
In round two, Werdum used a dazzling mix of body kicks, punches to the solar plexus, inside leg kicks, and anything else he could think to throw at Browne, before scoring another takedown and holding him there for awhile.
A Jackson's MMA fighter, Browne look gassed by the third round. Werdum continued with his clinic in the third round, simply picking Browne apart in the standup.
By the fourth round, Werdum slowed down the pace in the championship rounds, appearing content to simply not make any mistakes, knowing he had the bout well in hand. Werdum was content to yap at Browne and effectively counterstrike against his offense. Browne made it to the final horn, but his face showed the affects of the 25-minute beating.
With the victory, Werdum (18-5-1) capped an astounding comeback story. Werdum was cut by the UFC after a knockout loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC 90. Since then, he's won seven of his past eight fights, including his legendary submission win over Fedor Emelianenko, which ended the latter's decade-long win streak.
Browne had a three-fight win streak snapped and fell to 16-2-1 with the loss.
"I'm looking forward to fighting Cain Velasquez," said Werdum. "That championship means everything in this sport."