The UFC Heavyweight title is up for grabs next month when Cain Velasquez defends against Fabricio Werdum. It should be clear sailing for Velasquez, according to the MMA odds.
Things have been pretty quiet in the UFC Heavyweight division. Cain Velasquez hasn't defended his title since October 2013, when he dumped Junior de los Santos on his head after brutalizing him for nearly five rounds. Velasquez was supposed to fight Fabricio Werdum last year, but thanks to a torn meniscus in his right knee, the champ was put on the shelf, while Werdum won the Interim title over Mark Hunt last October.
Finally, we'll see Velasquez and Werdum touch gloves on Saturday, June 13 (10:00 p.m. ET) at UFC 188 in Mexico City. Whoever wins will become the undisputed champion. But is there any doubt it'll be Velasquez? The UFC odds at press time have him favored heavily at –500, in what's shaping up to be yet another beatdown of epic proportions.
It's easy to forget how impressive a fighter Velasquez (13-1 lifetime) has been. He rose to prominence in what used to be a stacked heavyweight division, knocking out fools left and right before taking the strap off Brock Lesnar (–165) in 2010. That's where the movie would end if Hollywood had its way. Instead, the past five years in the division have been a dog's breakfast of injuries, retirements, PED suspensions and postponed matches.
On top of that, Velasquez suffered the only loss of his career at the first UFC on FOX event in 2011. He dropped the title to dos Santos (–110) via first-round TKO; it was later revealed that both men were injured going into that fight. Velasquez got his revenge the following year at UFC 155, landing 111 strikes on dos Santos (–225) and taking him to the mat 11 times en route to a unanimous decision. Nobody in the history of the UFC had ever recorded those kind of numbers.
Velasquez has only defended his title twice since then, knocking out Antonio Silva (+575) in the first round before having his way again with dos Santos (+160) in their rubber match. But Velasquez remains the most dominant UFC striker of all-time (male, minimum five fights) at 6.21 significant strikes landed per minute. He also attempts 5.28 takedowns per 15 minutes with a 44-percent accuracy rate. Fighting Velasquez is like getting put into a meat grinder.
Tap Your Troubles Away
By the time Velasquez knocked Lesnar out, Werdum (19-5-1 lifetime) was already on the other side of his MMA career. The big Brazilian had fought in PRIDE, and he had fought in the UFC, where he came up short in matches against Andrei Arlovski and a younger dos Santos (+400). But in 2010, Werdum shocked the world and rebooted his career when he made the great Fedor Emilianenko (–495) tap out to a triangle armbar in their Strikeforce main event. Sherdog rightly named that performance their Upset of the Year and Submission of the Year.
Now Werdum finds himself back in the Octagon, and riding a five-fight winning streak that includes victories over Roy Nelson (+115), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (+245) and Travis Browne (–275). This renaissance is partly a case of diminished competition in the heavyweight division, but Werdum also happens to be one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world. In between his UFC stints, Werdum continued to compete in submission grappling contests, winning the sliver medal at the 2011 ADCC World Championships. He simply refused to stop getting better at his craft.
It's entirely possible we'll see the wily veteran use those skills to make Velasquez tap out, just like he did to Emilianenko. But again, we're looking at a higher level of competition here. Emilianenko was already starting to fade at age 33 – he lost his next two fights after facing Werdum. And Nogueira was 36 when they met two years ago – he got knocked out by Nelson in his next fight. Velasquez is in his prime at a young 32, with not a lot of tread on his tires. We're not about to bet against him with our UFC picks.
Free UFC Pick: Take Velasquez -425 at BetOnline