Fabricio Werdum (15-5, 3-2 UFC) vs. Mike Russow (15-1, 4-0 UFC)
The Matchup: Two key statistics stand out when examining Russow’s 4-0 mark within the UFC, which is part of an 11-fight tear overall for the Chicago police officer. One is that Russow has been out-struck in all but one of his Octagon triumphs. The other is that the 35-year-old heavyweight holds a 17-to-0 advantage in takedowns against those same four opponents.
What it all adds up to is this: Russow thrives on a top-heavy game that utilizes what is at best moderate ground-and-pound. Couple that with his unimposing physique and you get an athlete who has yet to endear himself to fans despite racking up win after win. Russow himself even apologized for putting on “a bit of a boring fight” in his last outing -- a unanimous nod over Jon Olav Einemo at UFC on Fox 2. That bout was typical Russow, however. The Chicagoan picked his spots with punches and elbows from above while avoiding the submission skills of a world champion grappler, gradually draining Einemo of his energy in the process.
None of Russow’s four UFC victims -- Einemo, Jon Madsen, Todd Duffee and Justin McCully -- come with the skill and experience of Werdum, a two-time Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist with constantly improving standup. Most recently, “Vai Cavalo” bloodied the durable Roy Nelson for three rounds at UFC 143, eschewing his vaunted ground game for brutal knees to the face and body from the Thai plum.
Russow’s wrestling background is his greatest asset, but he will find it difficult to score takedowns against Werdum, who is deceptively big and strong. If Russow cannot succeed in getting a leg, he will have to assert himself in the clinch and risk suffering the same fate that befell Nelson in February. From there, Werdum can either launch another knee barrage or score a takedown of his own. On the mat, the Strikeforce veteran’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu skill allows him to string together a multitude of submission attempts in succession.
Even if Russow can mix up his striking enough so as not to telegraph his shots, Werdum will be active from his back and will work to sweep or reverse. The Brazilian has exhibited better all-around skill in his standup, as well. Against Nelson, he was also successful landing punches to the head and kicks to the legs and body.
The Pick: Russow’s winning streak reaches its end, as Werdum batters him in the clinch and controls the action on the canvas before earning a second-round submission.
Next Fight » Iuri Alcantara vs. Hacran Dias