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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
With the UFC matching up Josh Barnett and Travis Browne for a fight this December, it seemed to be a sign that Fabricio Werdum would indeed be holding out for a title fight in the heavyweight division, and that appears to be the case.
UFC President Dana White revealed on Thursday (via FoxSports.com, that the Brazilian heavyweight is expected to wait for the winner of next month's Cain Velasquez-Junior dos Santos trilogy bout at UFC 166, and will fight them sometime in early 2014.
The 11-year veteran had been close to a title fight once before in the UFC, but the Brock Lesnar hype train and The Ultimate Fighter 8 brought a de facto four-man heavyweight tournament starting near the end of 2008, and he was left on the outside. Disappointed in his spot at the time, Werdum wound up getting knocked out by dos Santos in what was the debut for the future Champion, and that would be his last UFC fight for some time.
He made the move to Strikeforce, where he picked up wins over Mike Kyle and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, which set up a fight with the legend himself, Fedor Emelianenko. Werdum shocked the world by submitting "The Last Emperor" in that fight, but it was followed up by one of his poorest performances in a bad 15-minute bout with Alistair Overeem.
His opportunity would come again, though, as Strikeforce's heavyweight field was folded into the UFC. He made a much better impression in his UFC return than he did in the Overeem fight, showing off a much more confident and improved striking game in a three round drubbing of Roy Nelson. After that was a brutal stoppage of Mike Russow, which got him a spot opposite Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as a coach on "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2."
Werdum and Nogueira fought at UFC on Fuel 10 in June of this year, and Werdum scored his third straight UFC victory when he became just the second man to submit Minotauro Nogueira. Since that victory, he's made it clear he's willing to wait for the winner of next month's title bout to get his shot, and that now appears to be precisely what is going to happen.
Penick's Analysis: Werdum's the most deserving challenger at the moment, so having him take the next fight in potentially early 2014 makes sense. It's also entirely possible, if Velasquez wins, that we see a season of "The Ultimate Fighter: Mexico" with Velasquez and Werdum as coaches, leading to a Mexico City event in 2014. I think it's a plausible scenario at this stage given the new TV deal they've signed in Mexico and Latin America, and Werdum is a fluent Spanish speaker in his own right, so it's a matchup of coaches that would work, even if it kept them out of action a bit longer than most would like. Still, if that doesn't happen, Werdum can fight the winner of UFC 166 by February or March as well, and it will make for a big fight in the first quarter of the year.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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