MMA Review: #510: UFC 188: Velasquez vs. Werdum

-When the UFC first booked Mexico City back in November 2014 the original main event had been Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum for the Heavyweight Title. Of course, Cain had to pull out with a knee injury and so Werdum beat Mark Hunt for the Interim belt instead, meaning we got Cain/Werdum booked again for Mexico City here. Card overall wasn’t that heavy on names but with a ton of the TUF Latin America guys on the card I was expecting excitement at least and wow, they finally managed to book Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez for the co-main and how could anyone not be excited for that?

UFC 188: Velasquez vs. Werdum

06/13/15
Mexico City, Mexico

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Women’s Strawweight Fight: Tecia Torres vs Angela Hill

Both of these girls had taken part in the TUF 20 title tournament, with Torres being upset in the opening round by Randa Markos before an injury gave her a pass back in, after which she was beaten by the eventual winner in Carla Esparza. Hill meanwhile was eliminated by Esparza in the opening round, but she’d looked fantastic in beating fellow cast member Emily Kagan in her UFC debut in December. Torres had also made an impressive UFC debut on the same show – a decision win over Angela Magana. Despite the stylistic clash seeming to favour Hill and her lengthy, sharp Muay Thai game, I was favouring the experience of Torres and thought she’d get inside Hill’s reach and outwork her for a decision.

Big crowd pop for Torres upon her entrance which is to be expected. Crowd sound amped in general actually.

Round One begins and Torres throws out a couple of kicks and stays on the outside early on, obviously trying to gauge the reach of Hill. Hill tries to walk her down, but a super-quick glancing combo connects for Tecia. Pair of right hand land for Torres and she gets out of range quickly. Nice duck-under from Torres and she goes for a trip, but Hill blocks it and they end up clinched on the fence. Hill tries to shrug her off, but Torres clinches again and lands with a knee to the body. She does a good job of not allowing Hill to secure the plum too. Hard knee to the body from Hill. Right hand breaks for Torres. Hill continues to press forward but Torres goes for the outside trip again and gets it this time, landing in half-guard. Very little happens from there as Torres seems content to control without doing much in the way of damage or advancing her position. Impatient crowd too as they’re whistling within about thirty seconds. Couple of punches do get through for Torres and she works the body too, but really there’s not that much going on here. Hill moves into full guard and lands with an elbow from the bottom, but Torres ends the round by posturing up to drop some better punches. 10-9 Torres.

Round Two and again Hill tries to walk Tecia down, but Torres goes for a trip and lands a knee to the body when Hill blocks it. Side kick from Torres is countered by a right hand from Hill. Right answers for Tecia. Slick outside trip puts Torres on top again and this time she’s in side mount. Hill manages to get back to half-guard and again the action slows down from there as Torres works to pass the guard. Crowd don’t like this at all. Tecia works into side mount, but she doesn’t really do much from there either. Attempt at full mount from Torres and she gets Hill’s back for a second, but Hill hip escapes and manages to get back to half-guard. Action slows down again from there so Big John McCarthy stands them back up, but Hill comes up short on her strikes again and it allows Torres to clinch. Good knee inside from Hill but Tecia forces her into the fence and that’s the round. Chorus of boos greet the buzzer. 10-9 Torres.

Round Three begins with a couple of low kicks from Torres. Hill comes back with a leg kick of her own. She looks tired though and she’s clearly breathing heavily. Weak takedown attempt is stuffed by Hill who lands with a body kick. She’s still pushing forward to be fair but can’t seem to catch Torres who looks like the quicker fighter. Nice left hook from Torres. Combination lands for Torres as she circles out of range again. Crowd are openly booing now. Takedown is defended by Hill but Tecia clinches and forces her into the fence. She continues to try to get Hill down, but Angela defends well. Big John calls a break with about a minute to go, but Torres clinches again, walks through a knee and drives Hill into the fence. Good defense from Hill and she lands some elbows and hammer fists as the crowd continue to boo. Round ends with Hill continuing to defend the takedown. 10-10 round and 30-28 for Torres.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Tecia Torres. Fight was awful though as Hill couldn’t seem to get anything going with her reach advantage and while Torres was taking her down with ease, on the ground she didn’t really gain any dominant positions or do much damage or come close to finishing at all. Apparently Torres in a post-fight interview (she didn’t get one on the PPV) said that her gameplan was all based around not gassing herself out due to the altitude, which makes a lot of sense but unfortunately doesn’t make for an exciting fight. She could’ve put herself maybe one fight away from a title shot with an impressive showing here (she’s ranked #5 in the division currently) but instead we got one of the worst openers of 2015.

Featherweight Fight: Yair Rodriguez vs Charles Rosa

TUF Latin America FW winner Rodriguez had looked pretty fantastic in winning that tournament with a victory over Leonardo Morales, but it was clear that the UFC were booking him as a prospect rather than the finished article when Rosa – a fellow prospect rather than a tough and experienced gatekeeper – was announced as his opponent here. Despite most online writers taking Rosa due to a distrust of the TUF Latin America cast in general, I was picking Rodriguez as Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are smart matchmakers especially when they’re looking to build a potential star like ‘El Pantera’.

We begin with Rosa pushing forward before Rodriguez lands a side kick to the leg. Wheel kick and a flying head kick (!) glance for Rodriguez. Crowd are massively into Pantera and he comes charging towards Rosa with a WILD flying knee before diving right into guard, and going right into a triangle choke! Whoa. Looks like it might be sunk too, and Rosa is in trouble. He postures up and seems okay though, but he’s still stuck in a fully sunk triangle. Rosa’s been in the hold for about a minute now somehow. Dude evidently knows how to defend himself well from this position. Finally Rosa escapes, and he stands free before dropping back into the guard. Lot of scrambling from Rodriguez but he takes some shots and ends up giving his back. Rosa gets one hook in, but Yair does a good job of not allowing the second hook in and he manages to stand back up to a big crowd pop. Rosa tries to drag him back down, but Rodriguez defends until Rosa hits a heavy trip to put him back down. Good upkicks from Rodriguez but Rosa comes back with some solid punches. Full guard now for Pantera. Few more elbows from Rosa but Rodriguez almost snakes over onto the back somehow! Rosa manages to avoid that and goes for a leglock, but Yair pulls free and stands, then connects on a head kick as Rosa stands. Mario Yamasaki steps in to replace Rosa’s mouthpiece and the crowd hate that. Seconds to go and they restart, with the round ending on a Rodriguez leg kick. Tremendous round. 10-9 Rodriguez for the early work but it was quite close in the end.

2nd round and Rosa has a kick caught and answered by a body kick from Rodriguez. Leg kick lands for Rodriguez and Rosa goes down for a second. Uppercut greets him as he stands. Side kick from Rodriguez. This guy is wild. Nice head kick catches Rosa leaning forward. Rosa comes back with a combo and tries to get him down, but Rodriguez throws him off casually. Spin kick glances for Rodriguez. Takedown attempt by Rosa is avoided and he looks gassed suddenly. Big body kick from Yair. Side kick buckles Rosa’s knee. He’s swinging wild now. Takedown attempt from Rosa but Yair stuffs it and lands some nice shots on the exit. Left hand answers for Rosa. Spinning elbow misses for Rodriguez and Rosa goes for a takedown, but Rodriguez reverses on the way down and mounts for a second before choosing to stand. Joe Rogan is literally marking out on commentary, calling Rodriguez a young combination of Jones and Pettis (!). Takedown attempt again from Rosa but he can’t get the Mexican down. Knee and a short elbow break for Yair and Yamasaki has to call time to check a cut on Rosa’s head. He’s fine to go and they restart, and Rodriguez lands some jabs and a sharp leg kick that hurts Rosa again. Takedown from Rosa but Rodriguez pops up instantly and buckles his leg with another kick. Left hand answers for Rosa and that sets up another takedown attempt, but again Rodriguez stuffs it. Low kick into a right hand from Rodriguez. Another takedown attempt from Rosa leads to a leglock attempt, but Rodriguez easily avoids that. Sharp right hand lands for Rosa as they stand and he shoots again and this time he gets it. SICK REVERSAL from Rodriguez though and he takes mount and tees off with some elbows! Rosa escapes to his feet, but eats a right hand on the buzzer. 10-9 Rodriguez. This is making up for the previous fight and then some! Rosa is bloodied up badly.

Third and final round and Rosa connects on a nice overhand right and a leg kick. Front kick into a right hand glance for Rodriguez. Hard leg kick from Rodriguez but Rosa shoots and keeps driving and this time he gets Yair down into full guard, stacking up as the crowd boo, not for inactivity but because they love Rodriguez. Rosa tries to pass and stacks up to land a few punches, then settles down into the guard to get through with some elbows. More punches from Rosa but Rodriguez catches him in another triangle. It looks tight again like in the first round, and this time he lands some elbows to the head for good measure, but Rosa manages to pull his head free, probably slippery from the blood. Rosa tries to pass the guard and stacks the Mexican again, rolling him over onto all fours. Looks like Rosa might be looking for a possible Peruvian necktie from there, stepping over the head, but he ends up changing his mind and going for a crucifix hold. Rodriguez avoids it though and escapes to his feet to a big pop. Nice leg kick from Rodriguez but Rosa comes back with a right hand and hits another takedown. Side mount from Rosa but Rodriguez spins into guard right away. Rosa passes though back into side mount. Just over a minute to go and both men look tired now. Rightfully so given the pace. Sick upkick lands for Rodriguez but Rosa stays on top, this time in full guard. Decent shots connect for Rosa from the top but Rodriguez comes back with a pair of upkicks when Rosa stands. Rosa makes him pay with some more ground-and-pound, and the fight ends with a wild exchange in the guard. 10-9 Rosa, 29-28 Rodriguez overall.

Official scores are 29-28 Rodriguez, 29-28 Rosa and 29-28 for Yair Rodriguez to pick up the split decision. Didn’t expect the split there but I guess the judge who scored it for Rosa gave him the first round too. This was a fantastic fight at any rate, just pure action from start to finish as Rodriguez came roaring out of the gates with some wild early offense, but Rosa managed to grind him down and did a great job to come back and take the third round. Ceiling is obviously higher for Rodriguez and at just 23 he’s got a lot of growth yet too, so we could be seeing something special for the first time from Mexico, but it’s important that they build him correctly as this wasn’t a flawless performance by any means. I think Rosa probably hangs around in the division for some time yet too as he fought a really good fight here. Tremendous stuff all round really.

Middleweight Fight: Kelvin Gastelum vs Nate Marquardt

After he’d beaten Jake Ellenberger on the last Mexico City show, I think everyone expected Gastelum to rise into title contention at 170lbs. That wasn’t the case though after a January loss to Tyron Woodley – not that a loss to Woodley is shameful, but Kelvin missed weight spectacularly and was told he’d have to fight at 185lbs for his next fight. That was booked for here against Marquardt, who if I’m honest sounded like a gimme for the TUF 17 winner given he’d looked absolutely shot in his last few fights outside of an armbar win over James Te Huna.

First round begins and Gastelum pushes forward and tags Nate with a combo in the early going. Marquardt stays calm and returns fire and both men land some decent punches before Kelvin really begins to open up and tag Nate with some more hard punches. Clinch from Nate but Kelvin breaks with an uppercut. Beautiful one-two from Gastelum snaps Nate’s head back. Marquardt looks busted up already. More punches connect for Gastelum and he avoids a trip from the clinch and exits with an elbow. Clinch again from Nate and he moves Gastelum into the fence. Kelvin breaks off and hits him with a nice jab. Jabs set up an uppercut for Marquardt. Clinch follows and Nate hits a knee-tap, but Gastelum reverses to his feet right away. He backs Nate into the fence and from there he hits a double leg, then forces him to the ground in half-guard as he tries to scramble up. Nate gives his back, and Gastelum slaps in one hook. Marquardt defends the second hook and Kelvin ends up taking side mount instead, but from there Marquardt rolls for a kneebar. Kelvin avoids and they’re back up with seconds to go. Big body kick lands for Gastelum. He’s using his jab nicely here too. Big combination wobbles Marquardt but the round ends before he can go for the finish. 10-9 Gastelum.

Second round and a pair of hard inside leg kicks open things for Gastelum. Nate looks so much slower than Kelvin. More jabs from the TUF winner set up a left hand. Brief clinch is broken by Gastelum and he continues to fire off with the jab. Good uppercut from Marquardt sets up a combination for him. Gastelum’s jab is looking fantastic here. He backs Marquardt up with another combo and goes to the body this time too. Nate looks hurt. Big knees from Gastelum and Marquardt goes down onto all fours. He’s in deep trouble. Gastelum pours it on with heavy punches on the ground, and he continues to land hard as Marquardt drops into half-guard. Foot sweep somehow works for Nate and allows him to his feet, but he looks about done. Gastelum forces him back and then grabs a front headlock and uses it to pull Nate down, and from there the veteran turtles up and takes more shots. No hooks for Kelvin but it looks like he might be setting up for the choke. Marquardt attempts a sweep, but only gets to full guard, where Kelvin continues to land before passing again. Nate rolls but can’t get Gastelum off him and he’s taking more elbows now. Again Nate turtles up, and he takes some punches before going for a leglock. Gastelum slips free though and stands over him. Seconds to go and Gastelum walks away as the buzzer sounds. 10-8 Gastelum.

Between rounds Marquardt can barely get onto his stool and he outright tells Trevor Whitman he’s got nothing left. Whitman calls the doctor over and right away apologises to Marquardt and stops the fight. Great, GREAT cornering from Whitman as finally a corner in MMA shows there’s no shame in calling a stop to a fight when their fighter is clearly done, as Nate was here. Nate tried and showed a ton of heart but he was thoroughly beaten down by a younger, stronger fighter. It’s sad to watch in a way when you think that Marquardt was literally one of the baddest guys in the whole UFC in like 2006-9 and now he’s this broken shell of his former self, pretty much clinging onto his UFC career and unfortunately, probably not for much longer too. On the flip side it’s onwards and upwards for Kelvin as he’s going back to 170lbs where hopefully he’ll resume his career as one of the top prospects in the game. Fight was fine albeit sad to watch due to Marquardt’s situation.

Lightweight Fight: Eddie Alvarez vs Gilbert Melendez

I was super-pumped for this fight and so were most MMA fans I think as it was a fight that’d been talked about since like 2009 when Melendez was StrikeForce champ and Alvarez was Bellator champ. I think it’s very telling though that it only got put together with both men in the UFC under exclusive contracts, and all those people supporting Jon Fitch and this idea that MMA ought to be like boxing with no exclusivity and promoters duelling to promote fights and so forth ought to take note of that. But I digress – fantastic fight in every possible way really, but I thought Melendez had a slight advantage in all areas so I was taking him via razor close decision.

Round One and both men come out quite tentatively and look to gauge the distance. Good combination to the body lands for Alvarez. Trio of jabs connect nicely for Melendez. Exchange follows and a BIG RIGHT HAND lands for Gilbert and rocks Alvarez. Melendez follows up with a couple more big punches but Alvarez has his insane chin and he recovers quickly. More jabs from Melendez and he’s backing Eddie up now. Hard leg kick from Alvarez but Melendez pops him with another stiff jab. Another leg kick from Alvarez but Melendez gets the better shots in during another brief trade. Another stiff jab lands for Melendez. One-two lands for Gilbert and he continues to pop Eddie with the jab. Crowd don’t sound happy with this as I guess they were expecting a wild brawl. Melendez is continuing to get the better of these punching exchanges. Solid leg kick lands for Alvarez though and he connects on a body kick too. Round ends on the feet. 10-9 Melendez. Alvarez’s left eye looks like hell, almost swollen shut in fact. Replay shows it was actually an elbow rather than a right that stunned Alvarez.

Round Two and Alvarez tags Melendez hard in the first exchange with a right hand. His eye is totally closed though. Jab sets up a right cross for Gilbert but it doesn’t quite land cleanly. Counter left hook lands for Alvarez and he shoots on a takedown, driving Melendez into the fence. Gilbert works to defend and considers a guillotine for a second before giving up to just work the clinch. Big John McCarthy decides to call time for a low blow on Melendez, as the announcers mention that Alvarez’s swollen eye has actually been caused by a probable broken nose and Eddie blowing the nose between rounds. They restart and both men work with their jab before Eddie lands a hard leg kick. Takedown attempt from Melendez but Alvarez stuffs it, taking a knee to the body in the process. Gilbert has clearly slowed down here though and the crowd begin to boo the tentative nature of the fight. Couple more jabs from Melendez. Single leg from Alvarez and he takes the back standing. Eddie switches to look for a straight single leg, and finally he switches to a double and plants Melendez in butterfly guard. Nice. Eddie looks to pass and then grabs a front headlock as Melendez works to his feet. Knee from Alvarez and he keeps Melendez pressed up against the fence before exiting with a hard spinning elbow at the end of the round. Alvarez did well to get back into this one. 10-9 Alvarez to even the score.

Round Three and Alvarez comes out with a combo and then shoots for a takedown. Melendez works to defend it but Alvarez keeps him against the fence and then gets a slam to put Gilbert down. Melendez instantly begins to work back to his feet, but he really needs to shake Eddie off properly here. Crowd boo again and you have to think they wouldn’t be acting like this if it were any other two fighters, rather than Melendez and Alvarez with all the expectation on them. They break off and Alvarez lands with a glancing uppercut before shooting. Melendez stuffs this one but he’s taking some really deep breaths and his punches look laboured. Good right hand from Alvarez. Another one connects too and he dodges the big swings of Melendez. Hard leg kick from Alvarez but Gilbert comes back with a jab. Single leg answers for Alvarez and he gets Melendez down, but right away he pops back up. Alvarez stays on him though and forces him back into the fence again. Two minutes to go and they exchange short shots from the clinch, with Eddie continuing to go for the takedown. He gets it again with 1:30 remaining, but he still can’t keep Gilbert down. They separate and Eddie’s right eye looks swollen too now and he takes a couple more jabs. Nice counter left from Alvarez as Melendez pushes forward. Body kick lands for Eddie too. Both men seem to be getting more active now, swinging more shots and a spinning elbow lands for Alvarez. Melendez is busted up now too. Right hand and an uppercut end the fight for Alvarez. I’d call that 10-9 Alvarez for a surprising comeback win, close one to call though for sure.

Judges have it as another split decision; 29-28 Alvarez, 29-28 Melendez, 29-28 Alvarez, giving Eddie quite the comeback victory. Fight was nowhere near as explosive as everyone thought it would be going in, as both men came out tentatively like they knew how dangerous the other was and didn’t want to throw caution to the wind. Melendez clearly took the first round but seemed to gas hard after that and it totally allowed Alvarez to outwork him in the second and third to steal the win away. Worse for Melendez he ended up testing positive for elevated testosterone levels post-fight – he’s blaming a tainted supplement – and so he’s now under suspension coming off two straight losses. Not the best run then. As for Alvarez this was an excellent win for him even if it wasn’t the most exciting fight, and it puts him firmly in the title picture going into 2016. Can’t wait to see him hook up with Anthony Pettis in January in what you’d hope would be a barnburner. Shouldn’t knock this fight too much to be fair also as it wasn’t boring or anything, just perfectly acceptable MMA.

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Cain Velasquez vs Fabricio Werdum

Zuffa were selling this as “champion vs. champion” but if we’re honest it was a title defense for Velasquez as everyone knows the interim titles are bullshit. Despite Werdum looking incredible in his last few fights I just couldn’t see him beating Cain, as while Fabricio’s flying knee finish of Hunt had been awesome, before that he’d looked painfully outgunned standing and was shooting from miles on the outside. I thought if Cain could establish himself as the harder-hitting striker early then the fight was likely his. Elephant in the room though was Cain’s massive layoff – about twenty months with various injuries – but I was confident he’d come back fine and be able to take out the Brazilian to prove he was still the man at HW.

And HERE WE GO!~! Crowd are insanely hot. Big leg kick to open things for Cain and these dudes are SWINGING. Right hand connects for Werdum but Cain drops him off a right hand to counter a head kick. Looked more like Werdum was off balance though and he quickly goes into the butt-scoot before getting back up. Big combo from Cain sets up a clinch and he’s going to work from there. Werdum gets a plum clinch for some knees, but Cain separates with a right hook and then bulls right back into the clinch with knees of his own. Knee from the plum for Werdum again before the action slows down slightly. More shots from Cain but a knee counters again for Werdum. Knees to the legs follow for Cain. Werdum separates and lands a pair of left jabs and it looks like Cain’s cut according to Joe Rogan. Camera hasn’t caught it yet. They clinch and exchange again and this time when Werdum tries some knees Cain tackles him to the ground and immediately spins into side mount. Werdum spins immediately and avoids a mounted crucifix, and Cain decides to let him up. They exchange low kicks back into the clinch and Cain muscles him into the fence before blocking a trip. Stiff jab from Werdum and they exchange WILDLY with both guys getting tagged hard. Heavy shots land for Cain from the clinch and it looks like Werdum’s nose might be cut. Takedown from Werdum (!) but Cain pops back up. Werdum meets him with a pair of hard knees though. They continue to work from the clinch and then separate, and Velasquez connects on a hard right hook and a leg kick. These guys are just wildly brawling now. Pair of stiff jabs connect for Werdum. Hard right hand lands for him too to counter a leg kick. Clinch from Cain again and he nails Werdum with a pair of uppercuts. Werdum comes back with a right hand to separate. Right hook lands for Cain and he catches a low kick and foot sweeps Fabricio to the ground. Rather than go into the guard though he lets him up. They clinch again and it looks like Cain’s left eye is cut. Good front kick to the body from Werdum. Nice right hand lands for Werdum and seems to stun Cain for a second. He comes back with some dirty boxing, but takes a low kick on the buzzer. He’s really busted up actually. 10-9 Cain but visually he looks worse.

Into the 2nd and Cain is breathing heavily, first time I can ever remember seeing that. He pushes forward right away though with another low kick, but takes a stiff jab from the Brazilian. Big jab from Cain but Werdum nails him with a left hook and then avoids a combo. Cain is bleeding badly from a couple of cuts now. They exchange again and both men land with hard punches. Another pair of heavy leg kicks land for Velasquez. This pace is INSANE for a Heavyweight fight as both guys are just swinging bombs continuously. Big left uppercut connects for Werdum. Right hand glances in reply for Cain and he pushes forward, but walks into a front kick to the chest and a combination from the Brazilian. Combination fires back for Cain. Big body kick from Werdum but he eats a right hand. Clinch from Cain but Werdum separates with a knee and then STUNS CAIN WITH A RIGHT! BIG COMBO snaps Cain’s head back and he’s in trouble, but he comes back swinging and lands a combo on Werdum! This is looking like a Rocky movie at times. Another big right hand wobbles Cain though and he’s definitely getting the worst of things. Big right hook from Werdum and he grabs the plum and suddenly we get a very Silva/Franklin-type visual with Cain looking dazed and confused. Big shots from Werdum and he’s beating Cain up from the clinch now, this is INSANE. Trio of leg kicks separate for Cain but he’s looking very tired and he’s walking into heavy punches as he’s coming forward now. Combo from Cain but Werdum stiffs him with another jab and a big left uppercut. Heavy knee from the plum for Werdum and he shoves Cain into the fence. 1:30 to go and Cain looks GASSED as they separate. Vicious combo from Werdum rocks him again. He’s still landing but he seems to have no power in his shots now and Werdum’s stunning him seemingly every time he lands. More combinations land for Werdum. Seconds to go and Cain is almost stumbling now. Big uppercut DROPS HIM TO HIS KNEES and despite popping up he’s clearly hurt. Werdum lands one him some more but Cain survives the round. WOW. 10-9 for Werdum, almost a 10-8 for landing SO MUCH DAMAGE.

Third round and Cain pushes forward but walks into a pair of stiff jabs right away. Takedown from Cain and Werdum almost rolls him over, but Velasquez manages to remain on top and then stands over the guard kicking at the legs. Even his kicks seem to have lost steam and Werdum gets back up. Another stiff jab lands for Werdum, and another. Big right hand into a head kick from Cain and now Fabricio looks hurt, but he grabs a plum to slow Cain down and then looks to secure a guillotine. Velasquez slips free and lands an uppercut, but he gets hurt by another combo and a knee from close quarters. They separate again and Cain lands a combo, but Werdum fires back with one of his own. Cain still looks exhausted. Hard right from Werdum. Big takedown from Cain but he lands RIGHT IN A GUILLOTINE AND WERDUM ROLLS INTO TOP POSITION AND CAIN TAPS! Holy shit.

That was an unbelievable fight. First off, probably one of the best HW fights in modern-day UFC history I’d say, up there with Hunt/Bigfoot, Miocic/Dos Santos, Rodriguez/Couture et al as they put on an insane pace and threw bombs from start to finish without really slowing down, even in the clinch. As for the result? I think you could easily make a list of reasons why Cain lost this fight, but I’d pinpoint it down to three really – firstly the fact that he’d been on the shelf for so long and had a lot of ring rust, secondly that he didn’t train at altitude at all while Werdum did, and his cardio – always a massive strength for Cain – turned into a weakness and totally let him down, as he underestimated the conditions and thought he could push his usual pace, and finally because Werdum fought a tremendous fight. Everyone seemed to be underselling that at the time, choosing to pick on the first two reasons, but in reality a lot of other fighters would’ve been doomed by Cain’s initial storm in the first round. Werdum took a lot of shots in that round but he stayed calm under fire, slipped a lot of big shots, used the plum brilliantly to do damage from close range and avoid letting Cain work him over as he’d done with JDS, and finally when Cain gassed out he really took over, beat him up standing and then finished him on the ground the first chance he got.

It looks now like we’re getting an immediate rematch which is fair I think given that A) Cain had been a dominant champion for a long time prior to this and B) no other HW has really staked a true claim to be #1 contender right now. As for who wins? Assuming the fight isn’t at altitude….I don’t know if I’d pick against Werdum even then as he looked so sharp here. We shall see though because last time Cain lost he came back even scarier than he had been previously, but that was before a ridiculous list of injuries. It may be that all of the surgeries and layoffs have ruined the guy which is really sad if it is the case. As for Werdum? I think he’s got to be in the conversation for the best HW of all time at this point as he’s now beaten Fedor, Velasquez and Nogueira, the other three who would be in contention. I’d probably still put Fedor and Cain ahead of him based on a ton of things I won’t get into here as such (namely the time period in which Werdum beat those two, and Fabricio’s other career losses) but it’s a close call now which is amazing really when you consider how Werdum was earlier in his career. If Rafael Cordeiro isn’t named best coach this year then something is wildly wrong, as he’s worked absolute miracles with Werdum and Rafael Dos Anjos and both guys now have UFC titles.

-Show ends with a highlight of the night’s action and of course, a promo for UFC 189.

Final Thoughts….

Tricky show to rate really because while Cain/Werdum delivered on all fronts including giving us a climactic and memorable finish, Alvarez/Melendez was a big letdown given what everyone was expecting going in. Torres/Hill was also awful as an opening fight. With all that said though Rodriguez/Rosa was pretty awesome and Marquardt/Gastelum was decent enough, and I guess while it wasn’t the FOTYC we all expected, Alvarez/Melendez was a perfectly decent fight by anyone else’s standards. So I’d call UFC 188 a mild thumbs up, and a definite recommendation to check out the awesome main event.

Best Fight: Velasquez vs. Werdum
Worst Fight: Torres vs. Hill

Overall Rating: ***

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com