KO Alters Course for Werdum, Dos Santos

By Marcelo Alonso Oct 29, 2008
When Fabricio Werdum woke up Saturday morning, he was a top-ranked heavyweight on the verge of a UFC title shot. One punch later, things were different.

Knocked out by Junior dos Santos at UFC 90 “Silva vs. Cote” in Rosemont, Ill., the course of Werdum’s career was altered in a matter of seconds. A man who had never been finished -- not by Sergei Kharitonov, not by Andrei Arlovski and not by interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- had to peel himself off the canvas after eating a right uppercut and a series of ground strikes from dos Santos.

“Everything happened so fast,” Werdum said. “I punched him and downed my head, and his punch came fast and strong.”

As Werdum attempted to get his bearings after the stoppage, dos Santos, a Nogueira protégé, celebrated the most significant victory of his career.

“I got so happy that my leg started to shake, and I lost balance,” dos Santos said. “I knew that stand-up fighting was not the strong point of Werdum. On the other hand, he’s phenomenal on the ground. My game plan was to keep the fight standing and attack with an uppercut right after he tried a cross, when he usually downed his head. The uppercut is my strongest blow, and I trained so hard to hit him when he did that.”

Werdum -- who entered his UFC 90 bout with momentum after technical knockout wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera -- credited dos Santos for capitalizing on his opportunity.

“I’ve never been knocked out or submitted in my whole life,” Werdum said. “We always have a first time, and it was my first KO. ‘Cigano’ deserved that. I have to congratulate him, because he surprised me.”

Now clearly on the outside of a heavyweight title picture that includes Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir and Nogueira, Werdum’s goals remain the same.

“Of course I’m frustrated,” Werdum said. “When you win, you go one step forward, but when you lose, you go back three steps, too. My goal still is the belt; this loss won’t change anything. Everything I dreamed in my whole life and put as a goal I’ve accomplished. [The] UFC belt won’t be any different.”

The smile on dos Santos’ face disappeared, however, when talk turned to a potential showdown with his mentor.

“There is no way it happens,” he said. “Rodrigo is like my master, and I truly believe he will be the heavyweight champion. I want to be the guardian of his belt.”

Werdum, meanwhile, plans to train for a week with friend Marcus Vinicius Di Luccia at his Los Angeles gym. He will then pick up training with Rafael Cordeiro at the Chute Boxe Academy satellite in Huntington Beach, Calif.

“My goal now is move to the U.S.,” Werdum said. “I love Curitiba, [Brazil], but I think it’ll be great for my career, too, because I can get a sponsor and train with Rafael, one of the best MMA coaches. He will help me find a place to live here.”

Eduardo Ferreira contributed to this report.
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