Fight Club: Ex-champ Velasquez battered

Daniel Eldridge 09:58 15/06/2015
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Hitting hard: Werdum.

Well, that didn’t go as expected. Cain Velasquez entered the Octagon in Mexico City as a 5-1 favourite on Saturday night and left a battered, beaten, and bloody mess.

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Fabricio Werdum spent the better part of two rounds getting the best of Velasquez wherever the fight took place, whether it was on the ground, in the clinch, or standing and trading in the pocket. That the fight ended in a guillotine choke was not a surprise, due to Werdum’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, but the manner in which that victory was achieved, very few could have foreseen.

Altitude definitely played a factor, as the decision Werdum made to train in Mexico City 34 days prior to Saturday’s main event allowed him to remain the fresher fighter as time went on.

Velasquez was known to possess by far the best cardio in the heavyweight division but in this fight he was decidedly second in that regard. Certainly getting punched in the face all those times played a part in that, and perhaps that was the most surprising take-away from this fight.

Werdum’s stand-up striking was noticeably superior to Velasquez’s and that’s where most thought the deposed champion would possess his biggest edge. Werdum put together crisp, accurate, punching combinations, and mixed in the occasional knee.

In between the second and third rounds, Velasquez’s corner called repeatedly for Cain to take down the Brazilian, fearing that a knockout was forthcoming if the two heavyweights continued to stand and trade.

These desperate calls for the takedown proved ominous. It ended with Velasquez shooting for a takedown in which Werdum, falling on his backside, wrapped his arm around Velasquez’s chin, and applied the guillotine choke, 2:13 into the third round.

“Sorry to everyone here,” Velasquez, whose parents are Mexican, said. “It was my dream to fight here and win in front of everyone. I will be back more motivated and win that belt again.”

He then tellingly added: “Two weeks, I was out here training for this fight. I guess it wasn’t enough.”

Almost five years to the day after Werdum stunned the MMA world by applying an arm triangle choke to the legendary Fedor Emelianenko under the Strikeforce banner, he repeated the feat by defeating the heavyweight widely regarded as the best in the world. This time, however, there was nothing fluky about it. 

The co-main event failed to live up to the barnburner expectations many were hyping it as. Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez had paths that seemed destined to cross for many years. Problem was, they never fought for the same promotion. Now, with both under the UFC banner the match-up was finally made.

Early on, Melendez scored big, landing a counter right elbow that closed Alvarez left eye. In between rounds, Alvarez made a rookie mistake by blowing his nose which immediately caused the damaged left eye to swell.

With difficulty seeing clearly, Alvarez turned to his wrestling in the second and third rounds, thus neutralising Melendez’s ability to get clean shots on his eye. Scoring three crucial takedowns across both latter rounds, Alvarez was able to slow the fight and keep it against the fence.

He mixed in some spinning elbow strikes and clinch work on the fence, controlling the pace and scoring points. Again, altitude proved a deciding factor as Melendez was visibly gassed by the third round. The scorecard a split decision victory for Alvarez 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.

Earlier, Kelvin Gastelum rebounded following his close loss to Tyron Woodley with a dominant TKO over Nate Marquardt. Elsewhere, Henry Cejudo, the former Olympic gold medallist who has been billed as a future flyweight champion, sure did not have the look of one after his unanimous decision win over Chico Camus.

Although Cejudo deserved the victory, his takedown attempts were mostly ineffective. Put him in a cage against champion Demetrious Johnson right now and he’ll get eaten alive.

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