It’s been approximately 600 days since we last saw Cain Velasquez enter the Octagon.

Needless to say, Velasquez has been off the grid for quite some time now. But that will all change, fingers crossed, when Velasquez meets fellow heavyweight, Fabricio Werdum, in the main event at UFC 188 on Saturday, June 13, in Mexico City.

A lot will be up for grabs when Velasquez and Werdum meet, beginning with the UFC’s heavyweight crown. They will unify the heavyweight title on Saturday night, but much more remains at stake. Not only does Velasquez have a chance to put aside the naysayers who’ve been critical of his injury proneness, but he’ll have the chance to redirect his legacy.

In addition to getting his legacy back on the straight and narrow, many questions will be answered at the Arena Ciudad de México. Is Velasquez the same fighter we knew two years ago? Will he ever be the same? How much have the injuries slowed him down? Will we see more of Velasquez? As a whole, Velasquez will leave us with one of two impressions when fight night comes to pass.

The first impression will be that despite frequent injuries, surgeries, etc., Velasquez is still the guy to beat in the heavyweight division. We’ll be reminded that he’s still the baddest man on the planet and it likely won’t change for a long, long time.

Or, we’ll wonder, what if? The ladder question will ultimately come if Werdum dethrones Velasquez. We’ll wonder, what if Velasquez could have just stayed healthy? What if he trained smarter? Would he have been the greatest fighter to have ever fought in the UFC? Who would have won a super-fight between Velasquez and former UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones? In this case, those questions would sadly, probably never get answered.

5Dimes BetDSI BookMaker Bovada SportBet
Cain Velasquez -485 -545 -480 -500 -470
Fabricio Werdum +385 +425 +380  +350 +400

Thankfully, there are a lot of “what ifs” and not a lot of solid evidence to truly know what will happen until fight night plays its course. Like my high school economics teacher once said, “if “ifs” and “buts” were sugar and nuts, everyday would be Christmas”.

That fact that Velasquez has, to the best of our knowledge, remained healthy for an entire training camp, leads me to believe he’ll be the old Velasquez that we fondly remember.

USAToday

He’ll be that guy that tossed Brock Lesnar around like a red-headed step child. He’ll be that guy that made Antonio Silva look anything like a “Big Foot”. And certainly, in my opinion, he’ll be the same guy that tempted Junior dos Santos into auditioning for the lead role of Frankenstein due to reconstructed face surgery. Not really, but see UFC 155 and 166.

In any case, I expect to see a similar if not better Velasquez than we recall. Time erases memory, so it’s understandable that some can’t remember how dominant Velasquez truly was. Time also heals everything. So if Velasquez can return to the kingpin he once was, it’s likely he’ll make us all forget about the long year and 8 months he made us suffer through. Thankfully, we will be able to know one way or another in a few short days.

So, enough about the potentials, let’s breakdown the fight we’ve all been waiting for.

It’s not a surprise that Velasquez is favored by the odds makers. The only time Velasquez was the consensus underdog was when he met and defeated Brock Lesnar for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 121. However, considering how even the striking matchup is with Werdum, it is surprising how large of a favorite Velasquez is.

 

Striking

In 14 professional fights, Velasquez has been outstruck just one time. We can all recall the first meeting between the champion and dos Santos when Velasquez was dropped and finished in just 64 seconds. The chances of something similar happening as such are slim to none, especially considering the news that Velasquez was hurt prior to his FOX debut. Not only has Velasquez outstruck his opponents, he’s demolished them in the process.

werdum_velasquez

(Fight Providence)

Werdum will undoubtedly be Velasquez’s toughest test to date in regards to standing and exchanging. There’s no question Werdum will want to utilize the clinch and unload some of those vicious knees as we saw in his dismantling of Roy Nelson at UFC 143. In addition to the knees, Werdum will look to put power behind his leg kicks to slow Velasquez down into the later rounds, if in fact it reaches that point.

But as a whole, Velasquez packs too much power to be considered an underdog on his feet. His ability to use his striking to open his takedowns opportunities leaves his opponents perplexed. For this reason, one can never truly become comfortable standing with the champion.

Advantage: Velasquez

Grappling/Wrestling

There’s not a man on this planet that wants Velasquez on top of him. If Mark Hunt was able to score a lackluster takedown on Werdum, it could be a long night for the interim champ.

As seen in nearly every fight of Velasquez’s, he’ll utilize his striking to create opportunities for the takedown. When he’s able to successfully put his opponent on their back, the vicious ground-and-pound begins. This isn’t Werdum’s first rodeo, and we’ve seen him capitalize in his position before. But, it’s unlikely Velasquez gives him any breathing room and space to create.

Here’s to hoping Werdum has worked his grappling and wrestling day and night.

Advantage: Velasquez

Submissions

Werdum shocked the world when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko in 2010 via triangle armbar. He was the only man to ever submit the great Fedor in nearly 50 professional fights. To date, it remains one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport.

Because of that moment in history, I’m sure Velasquez has attempted to defend every submission in the book leading up to this fight. Nearly half of Werdum’s career victories have come by way of submission. Velasquez on the other hand has never submitted an opponent. Not necessarily because he doesn’t have the skill-set, but simply because he’s never had to utilize it.

Nonetheless, Werdum will be a significant favorite in this area and one that Velasquez will certainly have to approach with caution. It only takes one mistake or a slight opening for Werdum to capitalize on an opportunity.

Advantage: Werdum

The Verdict

As we approach this underrated heavyweight showdown, I feel as if I’m entering the birth of my first child without discovering the gender. You don’t have a preference of the outcome, you just want a healthy baby. I just want a healthy Velasquez, and certainly a healthy Werdum.

If in fact there have been no disclosed injuries leading up to this title fight, Velasquez vs. Werdum has potential to be the beginning of a new rivalry. I know what you’re thinking—anything to replace Velasquez vs. dos Santos. But in all seriousness, we have on our hands, one of the best heavyweight clashes in recent memory.

When push comes to shove, it’s likely Werdum will endure early success. Due to his absence from the Octagon, it may take Velasquez a round to settle in, but when he does, Werdum better be prepared. I anticipate Velasquez to utilize his strong suit in wrestling and put Werdum on his back. Fortunately, Werdum has proven he can defend from the bottom position, but the question is, how much ground-and-pound can he withstand?

The cardio of Velasquez will be too much for Werdum to keep up with for five rounds.That’s why I anticipate Velasquez having his way and ending the fight right before the championship rounds come into play. Look for Velasquez to return to his normal, wreckless ways as he’s declared the unified heavyweight champion by TKO via ground-and-pound.

Prediction: Velasquez by TKO, Round 3

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