Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum
For the first time since October 19th, 2013, Cain Velasquez is going to enter the UFC cage to defend his heavyweight title, taking on interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. This, of course, assumes that Velasquez won’t get injured within the next two days. Injuries have limited Velasquez to just 14 fights in nine years of professional fighting. A torn labrum and a torn meniscus have taken a year and a half out of what should have been the prime of Velasquez’s career.
For his sake, I hope that Velasquez can put his injury woes behind him, because he might be the most dominant fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts when he’s actually competing. Velasquez fights have gone one of two ways – either Velasquez gets knocked out early (and this has happened exactly once) or Velasquez gives his opponent a severe and one-sided beating. This has been the case at every level of competition.
With that in mind, I can’t figure out why Fabricio Werdum has become a trendy pick to win this fight. I’ve seen a lot of people saying Werdum has a great chance of winning (they’re not betting on it, since Velasquez is a 5-1 favorite) and the only reason I can think of is that they’ve forgotten how good Velasquez is. Here are some cherry-picked significant strike totals from Cain Velasquez fights:
- 123 to 46 (Dos Santos 3)
- 18 to 1 (Silva 2)
- 111 to 57 (Dos Santos 2)
- 28 to 1 (Silva 1)
- 31 to 9 (Lesnar)
- 23 to 3 (Nogueira)
- 62 to 3 (Rothwell)
You get the idea. Overall, Velasquez has been statistically dominant in a way no heavyweight ever has been. Calling him “Cardio Cain” really undersells his overall skill, his developed and fluid boxing, and his excellent wrestling. It’s the combination of top-notch fighting skill and freakish conditioning that makes Velasquez such a dominant and terrifying fighter.
Now, I don’t mean to put down Fabricio Werdum in any way. Werdum is a talented and skilled fighter, something that’s becoming increasingly rare in the heavyweight division. He entered mixed martial arts with world-class submission skills, but has also improved his striking abilities at a consistent rate for a very long time now. I wouldn’t have expected Werdum to knock out Mark Hunt with a flying knee or put on a striking clinic against Travis Browne, but Werdum did both of those things. He’s legitimately one of the better strikers in the division now.
So yes, it’s possible that Werdum will be able to knock Velasquez out, or even find a way to drag Velasquez to the ground and win by submission. It’s just that neither of those outcomes is terribly likely. Velasquez enters with massive statistical advantages in striking, takedowns, and knockout power. If this fight goes the distance, Velasquez will almost certainly be the winner, but I don’t think Werdum can take punishment quite like Dos Santos, so the pick has to be a stoppage win for the champion.
Pick: Cain Velasquez by TKO
Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez
There used to be something of a rivalry between Alvarez and Melendez. Alvarez was the lightweight champion of Bellator while Melendez was the lightweight champion of Strikeforce. There was plenty of discussion about them doing a “superfight” but that never materialized until now.
There are some similarities between Alvarez and Melendez. Both fighters like to get into high-paced scraps, both landing and absorbing more strikes than average. Both definitely prefer the striking game to the ground game. Alvarez packs more knockout power but gets knocked down more frequently as well. In the end, I think Melendez will prove to have tighter defense, better conditioning, and ultimately win this one on points, although I also expect it to be an entertaining scrap.
Pick: Gilbert Melendez by decision
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nate Marquardt
Gastelum is back to middleweight after failing horribly to make weight against Tyron Woodley earlier this year. Gastelum’s lackluster performance in that fight didn’t help matters either, but I’m generally optimistic about fighters who move up a weight class. Dustin Poirier’s recent success should serve as an example that weight class changes really don’t matter as much as people think. I think Gastelum will perform well at 185 pounds as long as he doesn’t use that as an excuse to bulk up too much.
His opponent will be an aging Nate Marquardt, who was once a top contender in the middleweight division but is now well past his prime. Marquardt’s chin has become a serious liability and his striking isn’t quite good enough to make up for that. At 36 years old, Marquardt’s skills have declined from above-average in all areas to just average in all areas. With Gastelum entering at just 23 years old, this feels like a classic changing of the guard type of situation.
Pick: Kelvin Gastelum by KO
Yair Rodriguez vs. Charles Rosa
Rosa is a wrestler/grappler type who lost his debut to Dennis Siver but came back with a submission win against Sean Soriano earlier this year. While Rosa’s ground game is a strength, his striking and takedown defense appear to be weaknesses, making decision wins unlikely for him. That’s where I think Rodriguez can capitalize. Even though Rodriguez appears to be a somewhat ordinary striker and wrestler, ordinary may be good enough to win this fight on points.
Pick: Yair Rodriguez by decision
Angela Hill vs. Tecia Torres
Hill’s ground game is a serious work in progress but she has really developed striking abilities, and that makes her an interesting underdog here. Tecia Torres is a striker as well and doesn’t go for takedowns very often. This fight will most likely become a striking battle, in which Hill should at least be very competitive against Torres. I have to pick Torres to win, as she’s the more accomplished and well-rounded fighter, but a Hill decision win would not shock me.
Pick: Tecia Torres by decision
- Henry Cejudo over Chico Camus, although the odds are a little ridiculous
- Efrain Escudero over Drew Dober
- Alejandro Perez over Patrick Williams
- Johnny Case over Frank Trevino
- Cathal Pendred over Augusto Montano, and I’ll have more on this in tomorrow’s degenerate gambling post
- Clay Collard over Gabriel Benitez
- Albert Tumenov over Andrew Todhunter