Fabricio Werdum battered Cain Velasquez with punches and knees. But he relied on his bread-and-butter, submissions, to finish the Mexican-American in Mexico City.
Werdum scored a massive upset over Velasquez to win the UFC heavyweight championship Saturday night. Velasquez knocked the Brazilian down in a nevertheless competitive first round. Werdum took control in the second. As a battered and gassed Cain Velasquez scored a takedown nearly halfway through the third, Werdum turned it to his advantage by securing a guillotine. The champion didn’t contemplate a tap or an escape for very long.
Werdum, given little chance for victory, again upsets, and submits, the best heavyweight in the world. In 2010, he coaxed a tap from Fedor Emelianenko, giving the Russian his first defeat in a decade.
Just as Werdum’s shocking triumph immediately prompts reevaluations of him, Velasquez’s performance raises questions about the former top heavyweight on the planet. Did a 20-month layoff, and the injury bug, get the better of him? Was fighting angry—Velasquez refused to touch gloves before the fight—a mistake against so cerebral an opponent? Did competing at the altitude of Mexico City siphon gas from his famous tank?
Werdum, a dangerous grappler exhibiting dramatically improved boxing and deflating knees, awaits the possibility of men boasting scary standup. Fellow Brazilian Junior dos Santos, American Stipe Miocic, and White Russian Andrei Arlovski, who decisioned Werdum in 2007, make their case for a shot at the new champion. Werdum quickly announced after the fight that he preferred to grant an immediate rematch to the man who has competed in all but one of the UFC’s heavyweight championship bouts since 2010.
After Saturday night’s match witnessed Werdum’s confidence morph into dominance, the Brazilian’s eagerness to fight Velasquez again may make him less courageous than smart.