ORLANDO, Fla. — Fabricio Werdum became the top contender for the UFC heavyweight title by winning a unanimous decision against Oahu-born Travis “Hapa” Browne in the main event of Saturday’s UFC card at the Amway Arena.
In the middleweight matchup, Yoel Romero won a unanimous decision, snapping 2005 Waiakea grad Brad Tavares’ five-match win streak.
The 37-year-old Romero (8-1), an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling, registered three takedowns in the opening five minutes and seven overall while fending off Tavares’ (12-3) counterattack.
Werdum (18-5-1) earned his fourth victory since rejoining UFC. The judges scored it 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 for the five-round bout, setting up a fight for Werdum against champion Cain Velasquez.
The Brazilian controlled the fight after withstanding Browne’s attempt for a first-round knockout.
Werdum came out strong in the second round, landing 15 significant blows to Browne’s six. As Werdum gained confidence, Browne (16-2-1) appeared winded going into the third round and never made a serious challenge over the final part of the fight.
Werdum landed a barrage of punches and knee late in the third round. After letting off the gas early in the final round, he successfully kept Browne from any last-minute rally and got in a combination of his own.
Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Meisha Tate (14-5) won a unanimous decision against Liz Carmouche (8-5) for her first victory in UFC. All three judges had it 29-28.
Carmouche had two takedowns in the opening round and held off Tate in the second, but the slow starting Tate got Carmouche in a choke hold with a minute left in the third.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone got Edson Barboza to tap out in the first round in another middleweight battle. Cerrone, whose agent is NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick, caught Barboza with a left to the chin for the knockdown, and got the submission with a naked choke hold at the 3:15 mark. Barboza appeared to have the early advantage, landing 28 strikes.