Event: UFC 203 Date: September 10, 2016 Location: Cleveland, Ohio Venue: Quicken Loans Arena Broadcast: Pay-Per-View Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum After long being viewed as a supremely gifted grappler who was limited on the feet, Fabricio Werdum turned a corner once he was given a second chance in the UFC. He already had his place cemented in the MMA history books by becoming the first man to legitimately defeat Fedor Emelianenko, but Werdum looked to accomplish more once he re-entered the Octagon in 2012. Wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow began to show his striking that was being honed by legendary coach Rafael Cordeiro. A submission over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira then gave him the scalps of the two greatest heavyweights in MMA history. It was his 25-minute mauling of Travis Browne that really opened eyes to what Werdum had become however. Browne was favored in the bout, and seen as a future title contender (if not champion), and Werdum was able to outshine him in what was primarily a striking battle. That performance earned the Brazilian a title shot, which due to injuries would be changed to an interim title bout against Mark Hunt. Shockingly, Werdum stopped Hunt with a flying knee to become the interim heavyweight champion. His unification bout was next, and in Mexico City for the second time, he defeated Cain Velasquez with the third round submission after wearing the champion out on the feet. Unfortunately for Werdum, his title reign would not last long. At UFC 198, he was knocked out with one punch by Stipe Miocic in front of his home fans in Curitiba. The road back to the title will go through a familiar path for Werdum, as he takes on Travis Browne in his first appearance since dropping the belt. UFC Heavyweight Contender Travis Browne At one point, Travis Browne (18-4-1) was seen as a surefire title challenger in the heavyweight division. He started his UFC career with a 7-1-1 record, with the lone loss coming as a direct result of a hamstring injury suffered in fight. Following consecutive first round TKOs of Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett to close out 2013, Browne was placed into a title eliminator against Fabricio Werdum to headline a Fox card. Despite closing as a greater than 2-to-1 favorite, Browne was soundly outstruck and outworked in general en route to a decision loss. Since that time, the massive Hawaiian really hasn’t been able to gain much traction in the division, alternating wins and losses in the four fights that have followed. He’ll have another chance to crack into the top five of the division when he faces former champion (and foe) Fabricio Werdum at UFC 203. Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Werdum a -270 favorite (bet $270 to win $100), with the comeback on Browne at +190 (bet $100 to win $190) at Several Bookmakers. After some early action on Browne, the line has mostly just tightened on the favorite’s side, with Werdum dropping to -225 and Browne sitting at +185 now on fight week. This line is almost the exact opposite of their original meeting, when Browne opened -210 and closed at -220. Given how that fight played out the shift in line makes sense, however could we end up seeing another upset in the making? There had to be something to the Browne line the first time around, right? Well, yes and no. What we hadn’t seen from Browne back when these two first met was his porous striking defense. He had been in a close fight (with Cheick Kongo) and he had been knocked out once before (by ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in a bout that Browne injured his hamstring), but the only time he showed bad defense was easily explained away due to the injury. During his time in the UFC, Browne has bounced from Alliance, to Jackson-Wink, to whatever Edmund calls his gym these days. One of those things is very much not like the other, and is far more suited to Browne’s personal life than his professional life. If he was still at either of the former two camps, I’d be optimistic in Browne’s chances to improve his defense (Jackson-Wink was even able to take Andrei Arlovski and his shattered chin within one fight of a title shot), but with Edmund at the helm, I expect to see much of the same out of him. There is still an avenue for victory for the Hawaiian however. Werdum recently turned 39, is coming off of a one-punch KO to a guy not known as a huge power puncher, and has been competing in MMA for nearly 15 years. Even in the heavyweight division, fighters have a shelf life. Browne is still the better athlete of the two, and perhaps he can land a shot that shows Werdum’s durability is simply gone. However, Werdum is the far more skilled and focused fighter, he should have the better preparation, and he knows he can beat Browne which gives him a huge mental edge. If this turns into any sort of prolonged fight, you have to favor the guy who has more tools and has looked better later in fights, which is certainly Werdum. From a betting perspective, I’m not a huge fan of any of the standard lines in this fight. I don’t like parlaying heavyweights — which takes Werdum out of the equation — and I don’t think the dog line provides enough value on Browne. The closest I would be to pulling the trigger aside from props would be on the Over 2.5, which currently sits at +110. Werdum doesn’t have the power of Andrei Arlovski, or the swarming ability of Cain Velasquez, and we saw Browne take a good deal of punishment from Werdum in their previous bout. If Browne wins, that over might not necessarily hit, but I think the most likely outcome for the fight as a whole is Werdum winning another decision. Also, anyone who follows me on twitter knows there is no greater joy than winning a bet on a heavyweight over.