While the UFC tends to stack the deck on its annual pay-per-view that takes place around the New Year holiday, UFC 181, which takes place on Dec. 6, is shaping up to be a card with a lot of star power.
UFC 181 already features a headlining showdown between UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and challenger Vitor Belfort, as well as the lightweight championship bout between The Ultimate Fighter 20 coaches Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez.
As of Tuesday, there is also a pivotal heavyweight bout on the card, as Travis Browne is expected to return from injury and face Brendan Schaub as part of the fight card. Independent MMAWeekly.com sources confirmed the bout first reported by FoxSports.com.
Browne (16-2-1) has been sidelined with a broken hand that he suffered in a loss to Fabricio Werdum in April. That loss derailed his plans to challenge UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
The Hawaiian fighter had been on a three-fight tear, knocking out Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Josh Barnett, before Werdum cemented his spot as Velasquez’s next challenger.
Despite the loss, Browne still sits at No. 3 in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, making him a prime target for a heavyweight trying to put his name into the mix.
Schaub (10-4) knows the feeling of being that streaking heavyweight that ran into a brick wall. At one time, he had won four consecutive bouts before suffering back-to-back defeats. He then got back on the rails with victories over Lavar Johnson and Matt Mitrione, only to have Andrei Arlovski stop him in his tracks in Schaub’s most recent trip to the Octagon.
Browne presents a demanding task for The Ultimate Fighter 10 runner-up, but there’s a lot of upside that comes with the risk of fighting a Top 5 ranked fighter. Schaub has consistently hovered around the entrance to the Top 15. A victory over Browne would propel him into the rankings and possibly give him the confidence to make a run up the division.
UFC 181 takes place on Dec. 6 at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas.