Browne came out aggressively to open the fight, launching massive right hands that caught nothing but air. Showing little respect for his opponent, Browne threw blow after blow, but could never land clean. Meanwhile, Werdum (18-5-1) showed that he's more than just a submission wizard, flashing crisp striking of his own and busting up Browne's nose late in the fight.
The early aggression cost Browne (15-2-1) as the fight wore on, and he visibly tired over the final three rounds. Meanwhile, Werdum racked up points until the final bell while staying cautious of walking into any of Browne's desperation counter punches. In the end, Werdum was awarded the fight with scores of 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45.
He'll next challenge UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in a bout that's expected to take place in November in Mexico.
"This was the best fight of my career," Werdum said after the win. "I trained so hard for this one. I worked hard on every part of my game — boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, everything. I knew how good Travis was, and I wanted to show everyone that I'm ready for the title shot.
"I'm looking forward to fighting Cain Velasquez. That championship means everything in this sport, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to show that I can win the title."
In the night's co-feature, women's bantamweight contender Miesha Tate (14-5) overcame a slow start to battle back for a unanimous-decision win over Liz Carmouche (9-5).
It was Carmouche who set the tone early, quickly moving forward and looking to strike before taking the fight to the floor. But once there, she struggled to mount any real offence. Tate capitalized in the later rounds by flashing her own grappling skills, repeatedly working herself into a dominant position and looking for potential submission opportunities.
Tate nearly finished the fight in the third round with a deep rear-naked choke attempt, but Carmouche showed a ton of heart in fighting through the hold. Still, Tate controlled the majority of the final two rounds and was rewarded with the judges' nod, 29-28 on all three cards.
"It was very tough fight," said Tate. "We both have such a strong fighting spirit, and I knew neither one of us would quit. It took me a little bit to get going and then finally, in the third round, I really got my energy up and was able to do what I do best."
In a lightweight matchup that was expected to thrill, Donald Cerrone (23-6) and Edson Barboza (13-2) delivered on their promise to stand and bang. However, it was Cerrone who walked away a winner by submission.
The two went toe-to-toe from the opening bell, firing off powerful punches and kicks in the pocket. It was Barboza who looked to have the speed advantage early, and he was comfortable in the exchanges.
But just as he started to settle into a rhythm, Cerrone floored him with a stiff jab. When Barboza dropped to the floor, Cerrone immediately rushed to his opponent's back and locked in a rear-naked choke. Unable to escape the hold, Barboza was forced to tap out at the 3:15 mark of the opening round.
"I definitely wish I could've gotten that win without taking so much damage from him at first," said Cerrone. "The shots he hit me with finally woke me up and I kind of snapped out of it. But I was finally able to hit him with some good shots, and that last one sent him down."
In the night's first main-card matchup, Cuban-born wrestler Yoel Romero turned in the most complete performance of his career, earning a decision win over Brad Tavares.
Romero, a former Olympic wrestling silver medallist, showed plenty of grappling prowess, but he also demonstrated powerful striking throughout the 15-minute affair. Tavares, who carried a five-fight winning streak into the matchup, proved a formidable foe, answering back on the feet and constantly working himself free from his opponent's grasp even after suffering a sizable cut in the second frame. But the volume of Romero's offence was simply too great, and he was awarded the win with three scores of 30-27.
"God helped me with this win tonight," said Romero. "Everything I do is possible because of him."