It took Travis “Hapa” Browne exactly one minute to dispatch one of the heavyweight division’s most decorated and seasoned veterans in Josh “the Warmaster” Barnett at UFC 168. Both fighters started out striking and establishing distance with some pawing punches and kicks. Browne grabbed a Thai clinch, but was ultimately unsuccessful in landing a knee. Barnett shot for a double-leg takedown against the cage, and Browne delivered a knee that stunned Barnett followed by a savage barrage of elbows to the side of Barnett’s head that knocked out the former UFC Heavyweight champion at the 1-minute mark of the first round.

This knockout of Barnett serves as Browne’s third consecutive first round knockout, the first knockout coming over Gabriel Gonzaga at the TUF 17 Finale in which Browne utilized a very similar gameplan of delivering elbows to the side of Gonzaga’s head. The second knockout was against dangerous striker Alistair Overeem at UFC Fight Night 26 in which Browne survived a beating from the former K-1 kickboxing champion and knocked him out with a front kick down the middle that connected to Overeem’s jaw and finished the Dutchman with some heavy ground and pound. This win over Barnett leaves no doubt that Travis Browne is a serious title contender in the UFC Heavyweight division.

It looks like Browne will now face Fabricio Werdum in a title eliminator fight for the next shot at UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez. Werdum is obviously a very dangerous grappler and if he is successful at dragging Browne to the mat, there is a very good chance that he could submit Hapa. Werdum has also spent a significant amount of time working on his striking with legendary Chute Boxe striking coach Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA, and put his improved Muay-Thai on full display in his decimation of Roy Nelson and Mike Russow.

Stylistically Browne matches up well with Werdum and this has the potential for a great fight. Browne seems very comfortable in the striking department and possesses some very dangerous striking that accounts for 12 knockout victories out of 16 career wins, 10 of those knockouts coming in the first round. Werdum has only been knocked out once with that sole defeat coming to former UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos back in 2008. Werdum is certainly the more fluid striker, but you cannot count out Browne’s ability to score the knockout.

Browne’s key to victory in this match-up with Werdum is definitely going to be his takedown defense and his ability to survive off of the cage. I don’t expect Werdum to force the takedown off of the cage given the lack of success that Barnett and Gonzaga had against Browne, but rather I see him pulling guard and forcing sweeps on Browne.

The brash, young Hawaiian is hungry for validation and this victory over Barnett leaves no doubt that Hapa is the real deal. With Browne’s impressive takedown defense and powerful striking he could very well knock out Werdum and challenge Heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez in 2014.

What do you guys think? Does Hapa possess the skills to defeat Fabricio Werdum in their upcoming match-up?  If he’s successful in defeating Werdum, how do you think he fairs against Cain Velasquez?