With his dominant victory over Travis Browne at UFC on Fox 11 this past weekend, Fabricio Werdum is the clear No. 1 contender for Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight championship. We know that the two will lock horns in the near future, but the question at this point concerns whether or not the Brazilian is ready to finally be a real threat to the top of the heavyweight division.

If you were looking at it based solely on his performance last weekend, it would appear as though he is ready to take down the champion as early as next weekend. But the reality of the situation is much different. There are a handful of losses on Werdum’s resume that are still fresh in the minds of fight fans.

The first was his loss to Alistair Overeem in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2011. “Vai Cavalo” was coming off a milestone moment in his career in which he handed Fedor Emelianenko the first definitive loss of the legend’s career. The Emelianenko fight capped a three-fight winning streak for Werdum under the Strikeforce banner, but then he ran into Overeem. Werdum basically laid on his back for the entire fight in an effort to draw his opponent into a grappling war. The Brazilian knew that he was outmatched on his feet.

Prior to Werdum’s four-fight stint with Strikeforce, he had lost a fight to Junior dos Santos. In that fight, Werdum was knocked out in 81 seconds. It was another example of how he was outmatched on his feet, and that particular loss wrapped up his first stint in the Octagon—he was released after going 2-2—and led to his move to Strikeforce.

The biggest thing that “Vai Cavalo” has going for him is his feared ground game.

It was Werdum who handed Emelianenko the first legitimate loss of his career when he tapped the Russian off a triangle choke in just over a minute.

Werdum added another feather in his cap last year when he submitted Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira last year. “Big Nog” has been a shell of his former self in the last couple of years, but the victory still goes down as a significant accomplishment on Werdum’s resume.

It was Werdum who took Browne down for the very first time in the prospect’s UFC career. The Brazilian got the fight to the mat with relative ease several times.

Unfortunately, the clear trend here is that when the fighter who is standing across from Werdum has an edge on the feet, it’s Werdum who crumbles. In the first round, Browne and Werdum were having fairly even exchanges. After the fight, when it was revealed that Browne broke his hand in that first round, the pieces started to fall into place to explain how Werdum was able to establish so much dominance against the Hawaiian.

Now, we’re going to see Werdum go against a guy who, in 11 rounds, absolutely dominated the striking department against dos Santos. Yes, the same dos Santos who disposed of Werdum in less than two minutes. Although MMA math doesn’t always translate the way that it would appear to on paper, it is hard to be confident in Werdum’s abilities against Velasquez, who has a great striking game to go along with his elite level of wrestling.

It has been three years since Werdum laid on his back and butt-scooted for three rounds against Overeem. It has been six years since he was knocked out by dos Santos in the first round. There is no doubt that the current version of Werdum is better than that of years past, and his striking has progressed tremendously while working with Rafael Cordeiro. However, out of all of the things that Velasquez does well, striking ranks right up there with wrestling. The champion will be able to keep the fight on the feet, avoiding Werdum’s lethal submission game. With Werdum’s best weapon neutralized, Velasquez will punch his way to victory.

Werdum has demonstrated that he is an improved heavyweight, but is he the best in the world? His past record would suggest otherwise, and Velasquez will remind us of that soon enough.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.