With one fight — and a submission loss, at that — in the last 29 months, former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is finally set for a return to the Octagon (potentially).
News came from Ariel Helwani on this evening’s (March 16, 2016) UFC Tonight that Velasquez is rumored to be facing No. 7-ranked Travis Browne on July 9 at the promotion’s blockbuster UFC 200 card. The fight has not been made official as of this writing.
The top-ranked Velasquez was supposed to face current champion Fabricio Werdum, who submitted him after he gassed in the third round of their back-and-forth war at June 2015’s UFC 188, in the main event of February 6’s UFC 196, but a back injury forced him out the bout and into surgery. It was the latest in a long series of devastating shoulder, knee, and now back, injuries that have undoubtedly sapped much of the prime years from a competitor who was once talked about as the greatest of all-time.
He’ll look to begin building back towards that status against Browne, who has been more well known for being Ronda Rousey‘s boyfriend as of late, often appearing alongside her in paparazzi photos as she attempted to stay in seclusion after her devastating UFC 193 knockout loss to Holly Holm. He did defeat recent Bellator signee Matt Mitrione with a controversy-laden TKO at January’s UFC Fight Night 81, where he viciously poked ‘Meathead’ in the eye and battered him to an eventual win when the referee somehow failed to see the second and most egregious poke. Mitrione is appealing the loss.
Browne did make a ton of noise in 2013, winning three straight “Knockout of the Night” bonuses over Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett, but has since fallen on hard times, losing two out of his last four with his two wins coming over Mitrione and Brendan Schaub; two fighters who aren’t in the UFC anymore.
Velasquez has not fought a non-title fight since his UFC 146 win over Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in May 2012, where he won his way to a rematch with then-champ Junior dos Santos. Six of his last seven bouts have been for the UFC heavyweight title, but with so many serious injuries clouding his future, it appears the UFC wants to give him more of a tune-up fight to prove he can make it to the cage.