Travis Browne came into UFC 168 with many MMA pundits picking him to lose to the much more seasoned veteran, Josh Barnett. It took one minute for Browne to prove those pundits wrong and effectively insert himself into the UFC title picture.

The end came with Barnett looking for a takedown and eating a knee in the process (highlights here). Barnett was able to push Browne against the fence and in an almost identical situation to Browne’s victory over Gabriel Gonzaga, the massive heavyweight unleashed a flurry of elbows that left Barnett unconscious. It was a violent ending that one would expect from a heavyweight contest, but it was extremely shocking that Browne not only finished another opponent with those elbows, but finished one as durable as Barnett.

In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Browne proclaimed himself to be a “new breed of fighter” and was more than ready to set up a showdown with Fabricio Werdum. The Brazilian is widely considered to be the No. 1 contender and would undoubtedly be next in line to face UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. Unfortunately, Velasquez will miss a good portion of 2014 due to shoulder surgery which has left not only the UFC in a predicament, but Werdum as well. The UFC will likely push Werdum to face Browne in a true No. 1 contender match, but is Browne truly ready to be a title contender?

Let’s start by examining his resume. Although officially Browne sports a 16-1-1 record, it’s hard to knock him for the loss to Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Browne suffered a leg injury early in the contest and lost one of his greatest attributes, his athleticism, as a result. Silva swarmed Browne and quickly got the TKO victory. Browne rebounded in dramatic fashion by knocking out Gonzaga with a series of elbows from up against the cage. We’ve always known Browne had the talent to be an interesting prospect, but it was his fight with Alistair Overeem that truly put him in the realm of contenders. Browne was battered and dropped early with knees from the former K-1 champion. Overeem threw everything but the kitchen sink at Browne, but somehow Browne was able to survive. Despite the fact that the fight should’ve been stopped, Browne managed to make it to his feet and had one of the best comebacks in UFC history to drop Overeem in the same round.

Browne has shown that he not only has the physical tools, but the mental ones as well. He showcased tremendous heart in the Overeem fight, and of course has shown to be a very capable fighter on the feet. We haven’t seen much of his ground game, outside of tapping out Chad Griggs, but that’s more due to the fact we haven’t had to see it. Browne’s large frame allows him to utilize his length over other heavyweights, and he’s one of the most athletic big men in the game. It’s obvious that he benefited greatly from his time at The Alliance gym with Dominick Cruz, because you can see him sort of emulate Cruz’s movements, which is quite shocking considering the weight difference between the two.

Working at Jackson’s MMA down in New Mexico has not only transformed Browne’s natural gifts into a well-rounded skill set, but it has also provided Browne with some of the best training partners in the world. Although he’s 31, he still has room to grow. That is a scary thought. If you consider that he possesses crazy knockout power, just imagine how strong he’ll be once Browne adds more technique to his game. His physical gifts and talent could provide some trouble for the UFC heavyweight champ.

Looking at the two men, they share similar advantages in that both tend to be quick and efficient in their offense. Velasquez isn’t afraid to come forward and will surely look to either use his wrestling or his clinch game against the fence to wear down Browne. If Velasquez doesn’t have any fear of moving forward against Junior dos Santos, don’t expect him to take any steps back against someone like Browne.

It would be an intriguing match-up on paper, in that Browne is an athletic heavyweight that is capable of throwing quality punches along with kicks. He won’t back straight into the cage repeatedly like dos Santos, and he won’t gas like some of the bigger heavyweights Velasquez has faced.

Still, it would be difficult picking against Velasquez in any fight, until Superman himself steps foot in the Octagon. Velasquez is just too good. Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn may be able to point out the flaws in Velasquez’s striking—he does have plenty of holes in terms of striking defense—but working on it in a gym is a lot different than utilizing it in front of a packed arena with a relentless monster like Velasquez coming at you.  There’s also the fact that we’ve yet to see Browne have to fight off his back. Velasquez has been able to take down every fighter he’s come across, and he’s also taken down far better wrestlers than Browne.

At this point, Browne still has to get past Werdum. That’s no easy task, for sure. But at the very least, fans are intrigued by a fresh face to the heavyweight title picture. After watching Velasquez dominate Bigfoot twice and dos Santos twice, it’s about time we see the champ face new, different competition.

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.