Fabricio Werdum had plenty to smile about after UFC 188. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Fabricio Werdum was in a jovial mood following his victory over Cain Velasquez in the UFC 188 headliner on Saturday night.
In between answering questions in three languages -- Spanish, Portuguese and English -- at the post-fight press conference, the undisputed heavyweight king jokingly asked Dana White to fund his family vacation to Cancun.
“Just seven days,” Werdum chided. “It’s very cheap.”
Although the query was only in jest, Werdum had good reason to feel bold. By submitting Velasquez with a guillotine choke 2:13 into round three at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, “Vai Cavalo” became the first man to elicit tapouts from three of the sports heavyweight luminaries: Velasquez, Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Werdum’s stock has never been higher, even when he nearly broke the MMA Internet with his armbar finish of Emelianenko in June 2010. As shocking as that triumph was, Werdum said that the victory over Velasquez was even more special.
“For sure when I fought Fedor Emelianenko in 2010 it was an amazing fight and nobody believed in me again,” Werdum said. “This moment today is the best moment in my life because the best heavyweights in the world are in the UFC. I’m very, very happy.”
While Velasquez looked to be in vintage form in round one, he was not able to maintain his usual blistering pace in Mexico City, which sits more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Werdum began to turn the tide in the second stanza, as he repeatedly landed punching combinations at range and blasted Velasquez with knees in close quarters. With Velasquez fading, the American Kickboxing Academy product’s corner urged him to go for the takedown prior to round three.
Velasquez heeded that advice, but it ultimately led to his demise, as Werdum immediately cinched the fight-ending choke when the Mexican-American fighter attempted a takedown midway through the period.
“[Werdum] looked unbelievable. He came into this fight with a great game plan. He went up [to train] into higher elevation than Mexico City. People think Denver, Colo., is a tough place to fight. This is a tough place to fight,” White said. “I think we broke the record for guys puking in the back -- like six guys threw up after their fights. This altitude kills you here.
“Cain’s been off for two years, and the first two rounds of that fight are two of the sickest heavyweight rounds you will ever see in this type of altitude. These guys were just squared up and were blasting each other.”
Werdum’s performance South of Border had many pondering the Brazilian’s place among the all-time heavyweight greats. His resume stacks up with just about anyone in the division, but it wasn’t until recent months that “Vai Cavalo” truly began to receive his just due.
“You never know when guys are gonna turn that corner and become as great as Werdum looked tonight,” White said. “And all the things he’s accomplished in the last couple years.”
For Werdum, being overlooked only added fuel to the fire.
“I prepared my mind for about two years. I believed in myself, my team believed in me too. I visualized this moment a lot of times,” he said.
“All the time I am the underdog. When I am the underdog, I get more motivation. I just showed [that] inside the cage.”