AP / Reinhold Matay
Saturday, April 19, 2014 | 9 p.m.
File the failure to put a television camera on heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez during UFC on Fox 11 on Saturday evening under missed opportunities.
Broadcasting Velasquez as he watched Fabricio Werdum rout Travis Browne by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in Orlando, Fla., would have been the only way to tell whether the champion spent more time licking his chops or biting his nails.
Werdum’s performance in the heavyweight title eliminator to earn the next shot at Velasquez could have warranted either reaction.
On one hand, the bellicose Brazilian came out strong and battered Browne with his striking multiple times in the first round. That’s exactly where Velasquez has proved most vulnerable with his lone career loss coming via first-round knockout.
But Werdum slowed down drastically as the five-round fight drew on, growing tired and losing effectiveness on his attacks. That’s exactly where Velasquez has been most lethal, as his persistent cardio has doomed a number of opponents.
The answer on whether Werdum can give Velasquez a serious challenge could come by the end of the year. The champion is expected to return from a shoulder surgery late in 2014 with Werdum awaiting him now as the undisputed top contender.
With three straight wins since returning to the octagon, Werdum was already the top-ranked heavyweight coming into UFC on Fox 11. “Vai Cavalo” would have, in all likelihood, fought for the title by now if Velasquez didn’t come out of a win over Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 hurt.
But the injury enabled Werdum to validate his status by facing off with the other contender in the division who had won three in a row, Browne. With Browne having knocked out all of his opponents during the streak in the first round, Werdum was the underdog.
Browne nearly got No. 4, clubbing Werdum to the ground in the opening minute Saturday before roles quickly reversed. Werdum recovered by converting a takedown attempt and smothering Browne on the mat.
When they got back on their feet, Werdum landed four times as many strikes as Browne for the rest of the round. He kept that rate up for the rest of the fight but was never able to secure a finish.
It’s hard to say whether came away feeling threatened or secure.
Miesha Tate notches first UFC victory
The Runner-Up Bowl resulted in suspense.
Women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey’s first two UFC victims, Liz Carmouche and Miesha Tate, squared off in a three-fight so close that no one was sure which way the judges would side. The Las Vegas-based Tate got the benefit of the doubt, slipping past Carmouche by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
“We both have such a strong fighting spirit, and I knew neither one of us would quit,” Tate said afterward. “It took me a little bit to get going and then finally, in the third round, I really got my energy up and was able to do what I do best.”
The third round was the most dominant frame of the bout, with Tate taking down Carmouche and putting her in repeated submission danger. But no one in Tate’s corner was completely confident she locked up the victory.
Carmouche landed takedowns and exercised top control in each of the first two rounds, easily winning the first before a couple of submission attempts from Tate put the second in danger.
The judges ultimately leaned to Tate’s aggressiveness as the difference.
Donald Cerrone wins another barn burner
The most memorable bout Saturday night was the second on the main card.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone quickly found himself in his usual lightweight brawl with Edson Barboza tagging him with an early combination that nearly resulted in a knockout. Cerrone stayed the course, however, and stunningly reversed fate with a jab that dropped Barboza to the ground a couple of minutes later.
Cerrone pounced and wrapped up a rear-naked choke at 3:15 of the first round to snag his third straight victory in dramatic fashion.
“I definitely wish I could’ve gotten that win without taking so much damage from him at first,” Cerrone said. “The shots he hit me with finally woke me up, and I kind of snapped out of it.”
Other notable action
Khabib Nurmagomedov might have inched within one fight of a lightweight title shot by defeating Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) to close the preliminary card. Nurmagomedov stayed perfect at 22-0 in becoming the first fighter to beat dos Anjos in nearly three years.
Las Vegas-based welterweight Brad Tavares’ win streak ended at five. Former Cuban Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero shut out Tavares in a humbling unanimous-decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Of the several debuting UFC fighters, featherweight Alex White stood out the most and garnered a $65,000 Performance of the Night check for a first-round TKO over Estevan Payan.