Preview: PRIDE GP Final Conflict Part I

Fabricio Werdum vs. Roman Zentsov

Aug 24, 2005
WERDUM: Fabricio Werdum (Pictures) is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is 8-0-1 in MMA. He was a star at the Abu Dhabi Combat Championships in 2003, finishing second in the 99-plus kilogram class and finishing third in the Absolutes.

He went to Abu Dhabi to help Mark Kerr prepare for the Ricardo Arona (Pictures) Super-fight and was sponsored by Marcos Vinicius de Lucia, the owner of Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club. He trained under Marcio Corleta and Silvio Behring (son of Master Flavio Behring).

Werdum began training jiu-jitsu in 1998 after a girlfriend’s former boyfriend challenged him to a fight. He was unfamiliar with the art and was easily triangle choked in front of his girlfriend. He sought out Winner Behring and instructor Marcio Corleta to begin training.

He won world titles and the Pan American championships as a blue belt, the European Cup as a brown belt and won the World Cup and World Championship as a black belt in the super heavyweight category, all in a two-year span.

One interesting fact about Werdum is that he was ready to join the Chute Boxe Academy and train with Wanderlei Silva (Pictures). He was going to be the heavyweight representative and replace Assuerio Silva in the camp and in the PFC.

In the final stages of negotiations, Werdum received a phone call from “Cro Cop” agent Ken Imal inviting him to Croatia to train Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) for four months. The deal also included a three-year contract with PRIDE promising four fights in a year. It was an offer he could not turn down and now Werdum trains as part of Team Cro Cop.

Fabricio’s MMA debut was at Millennium Brawl in London where he submitted Ultimate Combat heavyweight Tenzig Tedoradze in less than two minutes. He fought to a draw with UFC veteran James Zikic (Pictures) on the next MB show and then won a bout in Spain by decision.

Werdum submitted K-1 MMA veteran Kristof Midoux in Morocco before debuting in the Jungle Fight promotion. He fought in the first two events, stopping both Gabriel Gonzaga and PRIDE and UFC veteran Ebenezer Braga with strikes. And then at PRIDE 29, Werdum made his PFC debut against American wrestler Tom Erikson (Pictures). “Big Cat” took the fight on 12 days notice and could not outwork the crafty Brazilian, losing by rear-choke in less than six minutes.

ZENTSOV: Roman Zentsov (Pictures) is a mix-fight stylist from the Red Devil Sports Club and trains with Amar Suloev (Pictures) and Aleksander and Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures). He began wrestling at 10 years old and stayed with the sport for five years. Zentsov moved on to striking arts (boxing and kickboxing), hand-to-hand combat training and karate. He has evolved his fighting style and took up the sport of MMA about six years ago.

Competing in the M-1, Zentsov took part in the 2000 Mix-Fight European Championship, losing in the final bout of a four-man tournament by knockout to current UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (Pictures). The event featured Zentsov, Arlovski and a cast of exciting athletes including Todd Medina, Mark Smith, Darrel Gholar and Red Devil teammates Martin Malkhasyan, Amar Suloev (Pictures) and Andrei Semenov (Pictures).

Roman continued to fight in the M-1 promotion as well as other smaller shows like Millenium Sports (lost to RINGS star Joop Kasteel), BARS (KO’d by Russian nightmare Bazigit Atajev) and the always-entertaining Too Hot To Handle promotion.

In 2001, Zentsov battled PFC veteran Chalid Arrab, knocking him out in under a minute. 2002 started poorly (being submitted by PFC Middleweight Grand Prix semifinalist Alistair Overeem (Pictures)) but he finished on a 3-0 run including a decision win over UFC 55 participant Alessio Sakara.

MFC 6 pitted Zentsov against PRIDE veteran Bob Schrijber (Pictures) and the Russian submitted “Dirty Bob” early in the first round with a neck crank. Zentsov made his PRIDE debut riding a three-fight losing streak (dating back to 2/04), which includes two stoppages in the MFC from UFC veteran Travis Wiuff (Pictures) and Ruas Vale Tudo fighter Antoine Jaoude (Pictures).

MY PICK: Werdum.

I don’t see this being much of a test. Zentsov is a big, tough Russian but he’s likely only here because he’s a Red Devil and Werdum trains with “Cro Cop.” This serves as a “camp vs. camp” appetizer for the heavyweight title bout.

With Werdum dismantling Erikson (“Big Cat” took the bout on short notice) in his debut, I don’t see the Russian, who is susceptible to submissions and being knocked out, lasting long with a jiu-jitsu fighter who is learning to strike from one of the best. I feel it will be Werdum by submission in the first round.
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