With the dust barely settled on UFC 166 and heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’s second consecutive title defense, it appears that his next opponent may have already been selected. That man is none other than Fabricio Werdum.
At the post-fight presser, UFC President Dana White said of the Brazilian ground specialist:
“His whole game has improved. The guy’s a big, strong, durable guy, and his jiu-jitsu; he’s going to want to go to the ground, which makes this fight very interesting.”
On the points he raised, White is correct in his assessment.
‘Vai Cavalo’s’ whole game has improved. Werdum used to be a fighter that opponents only had to worry about on the ground; now he has the striking game to match..
In terms of a challenging Velasquez, he could if he can get the fight to the ground. However, could he? In a match between the two, the champion would most likely use his wrestling to keep the fight standing and then look to use his own formidable stand-up skills to test Werdum on the feet.
Further and in keeping with his modus operandi, Velasquez would look to use his incredible conditioning to push the pace on Werdum. Vai Cavalo has demonstrated some weakness here in the past — the most recent example being his fight with Alistair Overeem. Werdum looked tired and sluggish, and wasn’t able to go full strength for three rounds.
If he matched with Velasquez, the thing that Werdum will need to focus on more than anything else will be his cardio. Of course, this will be true for any challenger that wishes to contest for Velasquez’s belt. Neither Werdum nor any fighter can show up to fightthe champ with anything less than a full gas tank. To do less will be to guarantee failure.
The other thing that Werdum might want to work into his gameplan would be jumping guard while in the clinch, because that’s probably the only way a fighter like ‘Vai Cavalo’ is going to get Velasquez to the ground.
As far as a pairing between the two, there’s not another bout that makes more sense. With Werdum ranked number three in the division and Junior Dos Santos having been summarily dispatched on Saturday night with no need or discussion of a rematch, ‘Vai Cavalo’ is the only logical choice.
Looking beyond Werdum, there’s really few fighters who pose a threat to Velasquez. Yes, Travis Browne and Josh Barnett are interesting bouts for Cain, but probably not full-on threats to defeat him. Stipe Miocic might have the power, technical skills, and cardio, but more than likely wouldn’t be able to keep the fight standing. As to Alistair Overeem, he’d more than likely get taken to the mat and beaten up. At this point, he has demonstrated neither the cardio nor the chin to be able to hang with Velasquez.
All things considered and given how he trashed the second best fighter in his division for the second time, Cain Velasquez looks to be a champion with legs and the first heavyweight capable of retaining the belt for a substantial period of time.