Fabricio Werdum
Fabricio Werdum, next UFC heavyweight champ?

Despite Fabricio Werdum being a heavy underdog at about +400 to Cain Velasquez’s -500 for their upcoming UFC heavyweight title fight this weekend at UFC 188, here’s why you don’t want to count Werdum out, and why you may want to even put some money on him.

If you have not noticed the transformation of Werdum from BJJ wiz to a truly well-rounded and dangerous mixed martial artist, then you should immediately drive to the nearest ER to have your pulse checked.

Here’s six reasons Werdum could be the next UFC heavyweight champion come Saturday night:

1. Werdum lasted longer against Junior dos Santos than did Velasquez did in their first fight. Werdum’s loss to JDS was in 2008 and ended at 1:20 of round one, whereas Velasquez was finished at 1:04 in 2011. That’s a 16-second difference that probably means nothing unless you’re a superstitious sports fan which we absolutely know you are not. The time of the finish really doesn’t mean as much (anything?) as when these fights took place. Since their losses to JDS, Werdum has gone 8-1 and Velasquez has gone 4-0 (against two people, Bigfoot Silva and rematches with JDS). The main point here is that Werdum is not the same fighter he was in 2008, whereas Cain is still pretty much the same guy.

2. Werdum broke the 9-year winning streak of Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor was considered the greatest heavyweight in the world when Werdum submitted him with a triangle/armbar in Strikeforce in 2010. Say what you will but Werdum did what 28 other men could not do during that 9-year stretch. … On a side note, how fun would a Fedor in his prime be against Velasquez in his prime? … There’s definitely a good chance Cain will take Werdum down in this fight and it’s safe to assume the BJJ world champion will feel right at home there. Could Cain also fall victim to a submission? It was Fedor’s first-ever and only submission loss during an MMA career spanning 12 years.

3. Cain will not be much of a threat to Werdum on the ground. What is Cain going to do to Werdum on the ground? Cain has never submitted anyone despite being a BJJ black belt. He uses more of an anti-jiu-jitsu style to work ground and pound when he gets opponents down. That type of style will not likely work on Werdum. He has never been stopped via ground and pound. In fact his only T/KO loss was to dos Santos, same as Cain.

4. Werdum has submitted several big killers including Big Nog, Fedor and Alex Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem and Kristof Midoux, among others — 9 out of his 19 wins have been via submission, and he is always a threat on the ground, especially off his back.

5. Rafael Cordeiro. Werdum’s improved striking at the hands of coach Cordeiro shows the heavyweight using his reach and length to attack with a whole arsenal of punching and kicking combinations that we really didn’t see prior to his fight with Roy Nelson when the Brazilian made his return to the UFC in Feb. 2012. His fights with Nelson, Travis Browne and Mark Hunt come to mind when thinking about Werdum’s improved stand-up as he pretty much used them all as punching bags. It should also be noted just what a dangerous weapon Werdum’s knees have become and really work well for him in the clinch.

6. Cain hasn’t fought since Oct. 2013 when he defeated JDS via TKO in their trilogy fight. That’s a long layoff. Werdum has stayed healthy and active whereas Cain has had to deal with injuries and downtime.

Fabricio Werdum’s consistent improvement and trajectory upward could prove he’s ready to become the new UFC heavyweight champion with a win over Cain Velasquez on June 12 when they face off in the main event at UFC 188 in Mexico City.

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Vai Cavalo.

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