Werdum upsets Velasquez to win UFC heavyweight belt

Nissi Icasiano
Werdum upsets Velasquez to win UFC heavyweight belt
Velasquez, who returned from a 20-month layoff due to a knee injury, appeared to run out of gas for the first time in his career in a submission loss

MANILA, Philippines – Fabricio Werdum has placed himself in the elite cast of all-time greats by spoiling Cain Velasquez’s homecoming in the main event of UFC 188 on Sunday, June 14 (Manila Time) at the 22,300-seater Mexico City Arena in Mexico.

The 37-year-old Werdum submitted Velasquez with a third-round guillotine choke to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion.

Velasquez, who returned from a 20-month layoff due to a knee injury and was fighting in front of a partisan Mexican crowd, appeared to run out of gas for the first time in his career despite taking control of the first round.

In the opening salvo, the 32-year-old Mexican-American kept his characteristically-intense pace, landing his punches in the clinch, keeping his leg kicks busy and scoring a pair of takedowns as well.

However, Werdum worked hard to answer every attack by launching stiff jabs and shredded Velasquez with knees to the head.

At 7,382 feet above sea level, Velasquez seemed to be severely affected by the altitude as he went back to his corner with a gory gash above his left eye while breathing heavily.

When Velasquez knocked Werdum down early in the second stanza, he declined an extended engagement on the ground, fearing his Brazilian opponent’s dangerous submission game.

Velasquez delivered steady one-two combinations and overhand rights to pressure his opponent to the fence, but Werdum fought off the cage and caught the champion with his own punches.

A solid knee from Werdum at the end of round two sent Velasquez wobbling back to his stool with a gruesome cut over his left eye that bled generously.

Advised by his trainer Javier Mendez to to take the fight to the canvas, Velasquez put Werdum on the mat in the third frame, but he stayed away from his foe’s grappling and permitted enough space for a stand-up trade.

When Velasquez shot for a takedown after a missed high kick, Werdum converted it into a guillotine choke, fell to his back and finished it at 2:13 of the third round.

“I train a lot, this movement. I trained a long time, and I know he was going to go for a takedown on my legs. I just waited for the right moment,” Werdum said in his post-fight interview.

With the impressive victory over, Werdum (20-5-1) unifies UFC’s heavyweight titles and becomes the promotion’s lineal champion.

Werdum claimed the interim UFC heavyweight belt by knocking out Mark Hunt at UFC 180 this past November.

Aside from Velasquez, he also owns notable submission triumphs over Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

“I was [in Mexico] for 34 days. Adjusting to the altitude is very hard. I had a good strategy. I just have a big dream and I got it today,” Werdum shared.

On the other hand, Velasquez downgrades to 13-2 and snaps his four-bout winning streak.

“Sorry to everyone here. It was my dream to fight here and win in front of everyone. I didn’t do it tonight and I’m sorry. I will be back more motivated and win that belt again,” Velasquez stated. – Rappler.com

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