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Fabricio Werdum sets sights on Cain Velasquez

Fabricio Werdum (L) and Travis Browne square-off at the weigh-ins.

Last weekend The UFC held a heavyweight elimination bout between 6’4” Brazilian and  BJJ wizard Fabricio Werdum and 6'7" Hawaiian freak-of-nature Travis Browne, the winner getting the dubious task of facing current champion and freak-of-nature Cain Velasquez. Werdum won the honor in a grueling if one-sided fight. 

Both Werdum and Browne have looked vicious lately. Werdum submitted Big Nog, KOed Mike Russow, and decimated Roy Nelson’s stellar boxing, while Browne KOed former K-1 champion Alistair Overeem and tough catch wrestler Josh Barnett. 

Since his  KO loss to Junior dos Santos in 2008, Werdum has focused on his striking. He manages distance well, throws dazzling punch-kick-knee combinations, and fights extremely well in the clinch. Also, Werdum may be the best applied BJJ practitioner in the UFC. All these things make him a difficult opponent for Velasquez. 

Browne has used his height, reach and double-duty chin, along with solid technique. Until the Werdum fight he had not been taken down. Until the Werdum fight he had not looked awkward. Werdum’s training and experience allowed him to do both to Browne. But even though fans and pundits were interested in this fight on its own merit, they wanted to see if the winner’s performance spoke to an ability to be an actual challenge to Cain. 

Velasquez can smother opponents with clinch fighting and ground and pound, but Werdum is great in the clinch and most dangerous as a submission fighter off his back, perhaps nullifying Cain’s inside and top game. 

Although Cain has become a dangerous kick boxer via The American Kickboxing Academy, it’s his pressure and seemingly endless gas tank that turns his opponent’s black belts to yellow. We saw this against dos Santos and Bigfoot Silva. And we’ll see this against Werdum. 

Despite impressive performances, years of experience, and a formidable toolbox, Werdum can't pace himself in his fight with Cain. He’ll need to finish or at least hurt Cain early on, no later than the middle of the second. The Brazilian is capable of doing that. Unlike dos Santos---who wilted while being backed up by Cain---Werdum won’t back up. 

Fans love the big men. In a sport where most fighters look a lot like each other, the HW division is occupied by fighters of all makes and models. But Velasquez is the hybrid with the big gas tank and fuel cells. It’s hard to imagine anyone pulling his plug and taking his belt in 2014. 

Follow me on Twitter @RenkoStyranka



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