Cain Velasquez was dethroned in Mexico City on Saturday night. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
He entered the Octagon in Mexico City as the best heavyweight on the planet, hands down. Within 20 minutes, Cain Velasquez was not only the former UFC champion, he had been savagely beaten by a man who some are now considering among the greatest heavyweights of all time.
Velasquez was thoroughly pummeled by Brazilian Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 188, losing his title in the process. Werdum fought arguably the best fight of his career en route to forcing the Mexican American to tap to a textbook guillotine in the third round. Whether it was Werdum fighting the battle of his life, Cain suffering from the high altitude, a long layoff or a mixture of all three, the fact is that Velasquez has never before been thrashed this badly in his career.
Velasquez was cut around both eyes. His head rattled around his shoulders like a bobblehead doll almost every time Werdum nailed him. He was gasping for air. But still, the American Kickboxing Academy fighter never stopped trying, never relented in his pursuit to retain his title.
Some have already pointed to the notion that Velasquez was ill-equipped to fight in Mexico City and its 7,800-plus feet above sea level altitude. The defending champ arrived in Mexico’s capital just two weeks before he was to lock horns with Werdum, while the Brazilian had been there almost two months. But Velasquez was quick to squash that logic at the post-fight press conference.
“I was here for two weeks before the fight, but there’s no excuses,” a battered, humbled Velasquez told the assembled press. “Nothing was wrong. Fabricio was the better man tonight.”
Werdum seemed unfazed by the thin air, and he beat Velasquez in every facet of the brawl. The prevailing wisdom pre-fight was that Werdum’s best chance to win was to drag Velasquez to the canvas, where he could rely on his brilliant jiu-jitsu game. Instead, “Vai Cavalo” pummeled the champion on the feet almost at will. While Velasquez stumbled around the Octagon, trying to will his way into the fight, Werdum picked him apart and busted him up.
Velasquez had been out of action for almost two full years coming in, but Cain refused to acknowledge that he was covered in cage rust. The former champion made no excuses for his performance no matter how many different forms of the same questions were asked at the post-fight press conference, repeatedly giving all the credit to Werdum.
“There are no excuses,” he repeated. “Fabricio was the better man.”
Even UFC President Dana White mostly agreed with Velasquez’ assertion that the long layoff, coupled with the high altitude, was not what crippled his gameplan.
“There’s been guys who proved me wrong with my ring rust theory, but 99.9 percent of the time a layoff of almost two years you’re going to have ring rust,” White told the media. “A layoff and come in to this type of altitude, it’s tough. Cain is well known for his cardio. That’s, like, his thing, but you’re gonna have rust. He still looked good. The guy was in it toe-to-toe for the first two rounds and they were just blasting each other. Then he started chopping Werdum’s leg and Werdum really did a good job of conserving his energy, not moving around too much, standing still, and ended up out cardio-ing the cardio king.”
While Velasquez continued to bat back the questions of his performance, his fierce, stoic demeanor never wavered. He pointed to his loss to Junior dos Santos, and how he came back a much smarter, better fighter. Velasquez promised to replicate his post-loss performance from 2012 onward to what will transpire in the future.
“I’m going to be focusing from now on to get better,” he stated through almost gritted teeth. “I’m going to improve and come back. The plan is to always go back to training and get better, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to learn from this and get better.”