Fabricio Werdum looked a much improved stand-up fighter in his return to the UFC tonight at UFC 143 as he beat up Roy Nelson over the course of three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory.

The first round was big for Werdum. He looked comfortable on his feet early and then capitalized on a slip by Nelson and with excellent reflexes pounced on his back.

This was a very dangerous spot for Nelson so early in the fight, but credit to him as he managed to work his way back up to his feet quickly.

The danger wasn’t over however as Werdum then began looking to apply the muay thai clinch and fired some vicious knees to Nelson’s face, bloodying his nose in the process. Nelson tried to fire back with uppercuts of his own, some of which landed, but he definitely came off second best here.

Nelson’s best moment came late in the round when he caught Werdum with a punch that dropped him, but The Brazilian still had his wits about him and as Nelson came wading in with strikes he was immediately looking to lock in the same triangle choke that famously finished Fedor Emelianenko’s winning streak, but Nelson escaped.

Werdum started the second round well, nicely throwing combinations of punches and kicks that took a little of the spring out of Nelson’s step.

Nelson continued to plod forward though despite looking tired and as the round progressed Werdum also started to look tired and there was a slight lull in the action.

The fight sprung to life again later though as Nelson finally landed with one of his big haymakers that forced Werdum to hit reverse gear momentarily as ‘Big Country’ smelled blood and swung for the fences, but couldn’t find the KO punch he was looking for.

In general though it was Werdum who was landing more shots and that continued in the third round which was fought entirely on the feet.

Werdum definitely wasn’t firing on all cylinders like he was in the first, but he still showed some good work, including one point where he landed some nice straight punches followed up by a knee to the head, and a little later a solid front kick to the face.

Nelson ate them all, and despite his face being a bit of a bloody mess by this stage he hung in there, but wasn’t able to muster up anything to change the course of the fight in the final stages.

And with the final bell sounded it was time to look to the judges and they awarded Werdum a clean sweep, 30-27 on all three scorecards for a unanimous decision victory.

This was a good return to the UFC for Werdum and should put him right into the thick of things at the top end of the division where his improved striking and world-class BJJ skills will certainly make him a dangerous fight for the other top contenders.

As for Nelson, he’s tough as hell, but along with his cardio and weight issues he also has to look to improve his defensive skills as a striker as he can’t continue to take this amount of punishment.