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.
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.
One of the big lessons to take from Werdum’s win: you need people to help you. His brother Felipe put all the details of his camp together.
— Patrick Wyman (@Patrick_Wyman) June 14, 2015
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.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum says he has had “interesting” discussions about staging a major boxing card in Dubai later this year.
The legendary promoter has talked about bringing an event to the UAE several times in recent months. But his latest comments are the most detailed yet as he outlined which bouts he would be keen to stage, how it would work for television coverage in the US and hinted at the Hamdan Sports Complex as a venue.
“I’m working on a super duper card in Dubai in November. What we’d do is (American network) HBO would televise it live in the afternoon in the United States,” said Arum, suggesting the bouts would take place late in the evening in the UAE.
Bob Arum proposing a triple header in Dubai. Lomachenko-Walters Bradley-Ali Ramierez-Abraham/Stieglitz Not bad. #Boxing
— BOXING FANATIC (@BoxingFanatic__) June 11, 2015
“We want to do three championship fights of high quality. I’ve already talked to (HBO Sports president Ken) Hershman about it.”
The card Arum is talking about would be headlined by a featherweight unification fight between Ukrainian superstar Vasyl Lomachenko and Jamaica’s Nicholas Walters. That would of course depend on Walters defeating Miguel Marriaga in New York on Saturday night.
Also on the card would be the winner of the June 27 fight between Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas against Sadam Ali, a New Yorker with Yemeni heritage.
The third proposed bout would be super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez going for a world title against the winner of the July 18 fight between Arthur Abraham and Robert Stieglitz.
Arum has also talked about matching Filipino super bantamweight Nonito Donaire with England’s Scott Quigg.
“It would be a triple-header championship event,” the 83-year-old added. “They have an indoor stadium about 15 miles from the centre of Dubai. We’ve had very, very interesting discussions.
“I’m not saying definitely it’s going to happen, but I know how to do these things and I know what’s real and what (isn’t). I feel this is real. Would I bet my life on it happening? Not yet – not until we have a sizable deposit.”
Lebanese kick-boxer Ahmed Labban has celebrated winning his the first challenge of Invictus Season 3 by Paco Rabanne – a gruelling ‘fitness until exhaustion’ test.
– Invictus: Labban going for glory in season 3
– Invictus: Labban prepares for season start
The Beirut-born athlete is the first ever Middle East competitor of the Invictus Award, which sees 10 challengers from all over the world competing for a chance to win Dhs 206,000 (€50,000) for their respective charity project.
The ‘fitness until exhaustion’ challenge saw the 10 competitors carry out a number of different exercises – from skipping to squat jumps – until the fatigue proved too much for their bodies.
With each competitor surrendering due to the intensity of the workout, Ahmed and Gabriel from Brazil were the two remaining athletes.
Ahmed never gave up, explaining: “[It] is like a fight. It’s like I’m fighting in the ring.”
As both athletes ground out their last beads of energy, they were placed in a front plank position to stabilise their battered bodies.
Gabriel dropped to the ground accepting defeat after over ninety minutes of physical exercise, and ensuring Ahmed was victorious.
‘It was all about spirit, that’s what made me win. It was an unbelievable feeling to win this stage,” said Ahmed.
“I never gave up, because I don’t give up when I’m tired, only when I’m done.”
Each of the competitors for the Invictus Award has a different story to tell and a different charity project as their motivation.