There used to be a saying in the old days of the classic World Championship Wrestling: “Where the big boys play.” Well, the big boys will definitely be on display at UFC 203 on Saturday, Sept. 10. Heavyweights will clash in the main and co-main events, with the co-main featuring former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum working his way back to a title shot by facing Travis Browne. Can Werdum secure an opportunity to reclaim the title? Can Browne take advantage of possibly yet another opportunity to obtain a title shot of his own?
Strengths: Striking will be a common theme throughout this preview, and Werdum is one of the very best, particularly when he uses his Muay Thai. Prior to losing the heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic in May, Werdum rattled off six straight wins, with two knockouts. He also enjoyed two submission victories in that time and is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “Vai Cavalo” is one of the most well-rounded heavyweights in the UFC. By landing more than three strikes per minute and defending nearly 57 percent of strike attempts against him, you can count on Werdum to hit you multiple times while avoiding your best shot.
Weaknesses: However, Werdum is not unhittable. Although he has elite skill in jiu-jitsu, he often is too quick to get into a slugfest with an opponent instead of sticking with a more effective strategy. One need look no further than his loss to Miocic in May. It would have behooved Werdum to try and take Miocic to the mat and grapple. Instead, he decided to trade strikes and ended up suffering a first-round knockout loss for his troubles.
Werdum also suffered losses to other elite strikers in Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos. While Browne’s striking is not on the level of those two, he’s more than capable of landing a devastating knockout of his own. If Werdum doesn’t adapt and use the full complement of his skills, he could lose another fight in quick and devastating fashion.
Strengths: For better or worse, Browne doesn’t back down from anyone. He has no qualms about just throwing strikes and letting the chips fall where they may. More often than not, that actually tends to work in his favor. Among his 18 total victories, 14 are by knockout. Browne has knocked out some of the biggest names in around and has put on some epic performances, including his performance against Andrei Arlovski last year.
So yeah, Browne is a pretty good striker and for better or worse, “Hapa” still subscribes to the philosophy that he leaves the Octagon with his shield, or on it.
Weaknesses: While Browne is as tough as they come and will stand toe-to-toe with anyone, it leaves him vulnerable to being on the receiving end of potentially devastating strikes as well. One need look no further than his first-round loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 200 in July. He stood toe-to-toe with a fighter many consider the best striking heavyweight in the world, and he paid the price.
Browne is 2-3 in his last four fights, with his three losses being knockouts to Arlovski and Velasquez and a decision loss to Werdum, who is an elite striker in his own right. Browne was also knocked out by hard hitter Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in 2012, and Browne’s tactics inside the Octagon are still looked upon with suspicion. In his fight against Matt Mitrione, Browne landed multiple eye pokes to Mitrione, which later required surgery. He seems to have cleaned up his act since then, but it’s definitely a factor worth noting.
If you’re a fan of the stand-up game, you should enjoy this fight. Though Werdum is just as capable of locking in a submission as he is scoring a knockout, it wouldn’t surprise me if he just decides to throw down with Browne. However, I think Werdum will ultimately learn from his loss to Miocic and take a smarter and more varied approach to this fight. Browne will try to knock out Werdum and avenge his loss to him from 2014, but redemption will be Werdum’s on this night.
Winner: Werdum by submission
Photo Credit: FanSided