The Ultimate Fighting Championship will make its return to Mexico City, Mexico this Saturday night, with the undisputed heavyweight championship up for grabs in the evening’s main event. Seven months after the matchup fell through, the Arena Ciudad de México will once again play host to the long awaited fight between reigning heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and current interim champion Fabricio Werdum.
The fight will be intriguing for a variety of reasons, namely Velasquez’ return back to action after a 20 month layoff due to an unfortunate set of injuries. There are also two more aspects to this match that are not getting as much attention as they probably should. If Cain Velasquez wins, he will become the only man in UFC history to defend the heavyweight title more than twice, if Fabricio Werdum wins it’ll gain him the accolades and titles that have eluded him throughout his entire career.
VELASQUEZ vs WERDUM
Cain Velasquez, the dominant champion, is looking to silence the doubters and assert himself atop the heavyweight mountain after nearly two years of inactivity. Fabricio Werdum, the silver medalist in Velasquez’ kingdom, has rattled off five impressive victories since exiting the now defunct Strikeforce, but his 2014 campaign was unquestionably the most impressive. Werdum dominated Travis Browne in shocking fashion, and the flying knee that he hit Mark Hunt with, was up there with the triangle-armbar he locked up on Fedor Emelianenko in awe inspiring MMA performances.
Fabricio Werdum has always been respected in MMA, but he’s never won a major promotional title in his 13 year career. Meanwhile, Cain Velasquez is already being proclaimed by some, as the greatest heavyweight of all time. A win for Werdum would not only get him that coveted title, it will etch him in the history books as a potential all-time great, instead of a possible runner-up. Velasquez is being given some substantial odds as the favorite, but this fight is much closer than the bookmakers are forecasting.
No surprise here, Cain Velasquez’ cardiovascular endurance is unparalleled in the heavyweight decision. Velasquez is virtually never stagnant in a fight, his cardio seems to be even more enhanced by his economic fighting process. Although he lands more strikes than anybody in the UFC, his stand-up game doesn’t consist of heavy volume, he lands the majority of his strikes via clinch, and ground and pound.
Velasquez might be one of the best pressure fighters mixed martial arts has ever seen. Whether it’s clinch strikes, his perfect technique behind his heavy charging jab/cross combo or devastating ground and pound, Velasquez is constantly attacking and accumulating an otherworldly level of attrition that drains opponents physically and mentally.
Cain Velasquez is one the most credentialed amateur wrestlers in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Velasquez will forever utilize his wrestling in his fights and has also managed to find the perfect blend between his striking and grappling. Velasquez is astute at seaming his takedowns with his jab/cross, and getting counter takedowns with telegraphed and overcommitted strikes. He has one of the best single legs in the game and can dump opponents with little to no resistance, or utilize it to instigate a clinch. The wrestling is also the reason why Velasquez ground and pound is so vicious, he’s always in an optimal position to land heavy blows where the opponent has no other option than to turtle up or get punished further by attempting to stand up.
Fabricio Werdum is one of the most successful grapplers to ever compete in MMA. Werdum is a three-time world Jiu-Jitsu champion, as well as a two-time Abu Dhabi champion. Many high-level BJJ black belts compete in MMA with varying degrees of success, but Werdum could very easily be the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to strap on a pair of four ounce gloves. The problems that plague most grapplers are not evident in Werdum, he’s a very opportunistic finisher on the mat. Ground and pound is basically nonexistent in his guard, even when he gets hit, he keeps his wits about him and remains confident in his submission skills, and he’s equally dangerous off his back as he is on top. In top position, Werdum uses a good, steady pace of punches and elbows to pass guard and is most dangerous if he achieves side control.
Werdum also submitted the legendary Fedor Emelianenko off his back, which has given him this “Anderson Silva-like” aura about going to the ground with him. In essence, Fabricio Werdum, might literally be, the last person on Earth you want to go to the mat with in mixed martial arts.
It’s impossible for any man to acquire Cain Velasquez’ off the charts stamina in a 12-week training camp, but schedule a man for two sequential 25 minute bouts in a seven month span while the champion lays at home resting injuries, and suddenly things look a bit more rosy about facing a cardio machine like Velasquez.
The fact that Werdum has taken two fights in Velasquez’ absence is significant. Cain will certainly still hold the cardio advantage, but Werdum has already fought in the almost mile and a half above sea level altitude of Mexico City last November, something which Velasquez has never done. In addition, Werdum trained full-time in Mexico City in the lead up of what eventually was, the Mark Hunt fight. The five round decision he won against Travis Browne is quite substantial as well, it was the first time he went a full 25 minutes, and held up conditioning wise, quite nicely against a lethal opponent like Browne. If there’s no substitute for hard work, a little extra work never hurt anybody either.
It is difficult to know how Cain Velasquez will look coming back from such a long layoff. Velasquez is currently at his absolute athletic peak, but has spent nearly two years of that injured, those are not things one wants when facing a guy who’s coming off two good camps with the confidence and wherewithal to go five rounds.
Fabricio Werdum has polished his striking quite nicely, and under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has garnered a Muay Thai centered arsenal that can give a guy like Velasquez problems. This will be the first time Velasquez faces an elite submission artist, with good striking and underrated clinching skills.
Werdum will look to unleash heavy fight ending kicks and knees throughout the entire bout with Velasquez pressuring forward. It will be competitive for however long it lasts, but Werdum’s kickboxing attack is just too tempting and problematic for Velasquez to avoid the ground. For as much clinch and in-fighting that Velasquez likes to engage in, ground and pound is his bread and butter, and there is no clear scenario where someone can take Werdum to the ground and stay clear of any danger.
FABRICIO WERDUM VIA 2ND ROUND SUBMISSION