The Severe Diagnosis: UFC 188 – Velasquez vs. Werdum

ufc188_580

The highest arena in UFC history was the venue for this weekend’s top MMA action as the Octagon traveled to Mexico City for the promotion’s latest pay-per-view, UFC 188.

Victorious Werdum

After twenty months out of the cage, UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez returned to action to headline the event in the birthplace of his parents against the man who held the interim title in his absence Fabricio Werdum. As he always does, Velasquez came out on the attack hard. Werdum, though, didn’t take a backward step as both men landed hard in the first exchange. A Werdum right hand seemed the best strike of the lot early although he was briefly put on his back from a straight right before Cain allowed him back to his feet. Some cage control for Velasquez followed that as he was able to land a couple of dirty boxing strikes before getting the takedown. Velasquez wasn’t playing on the ground for long, though, and came back to his feet almost instantly. As they landed in the clinch again, Velasquez looked dominant but Werdum managed to turn the tide and took him down although he couldn’t hold the position. A couple of Werdum leg kicks and jabs were the answer for the unrelenting pressure of Velasquez as the action was hell for leather as the round got to full flow. Werdum fell to his back again late in the round but Cain was weary of it and instead they slugged it out on the feet to the round’s end.

Three Velasquez leg kicks opened up round two as both men went toe-to-toe again. A Werdum left hook, a Velasquez right hand and another Werdum uppercut came in a mad exchange right in the middle. As the round went on, Werdum seemed to grow in confidence and landed three right hands which stunned Velasquez. Regardless, Cardio Cain ploughed forward landing punches in bunches but ate knees, uppercuts  and front kicks as he looked to be tiring despite his nickname. A strong series of four right hands in the last minute of the round from Werdum had Velasquez bloodied and hurt in a huge period which saw the Brazilian take over in a big way.

The doctor checked Velasquez between rounds but he was allowed to continue and immediately took Werdum down from the restart in accordance with the advice from his coach Javier Mendes. The Brazilian attempted to pull Cain into his guard but the champion thought better of it as he stepped away. A head kick from Velasquez landed hard on Werdum after that, before a standing guillotine try from Werdum didn’t get the necessary torque.

From the break, Werdum landed four hard punches and a knee from the Thai clinch which had a tired looking Velasquez in trouble.  As they circled back out to the centre of the cage it was all Werdum in the striking exchanges but, as the Brazilian landed a jab, Velasquez ducked and got the double leg takedown. Before they even hit the floor, Werdum locked onto the neck and caught Velasquez in a full on guillotine – that was the beginning of the end. Against a former world jiu-jitsu champion there was no escape for Velasquez and he was forced to tap within seconds. For Velasquez it’s the second time he has lost the UFC world heavyweight title while, for Werdum, it’s the culmination of a huge career resurgence which saw him go from the UFC cut list to the baddest man on the planet.

One-Eye Eddie Edges Gil

The co-main event was also a meeting of MMA champions as former WEC and Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez took on the man who vacated his Bellator strap when moving to the UFC Eddie Alvarez. As everyone expected them to do both men met in the centre of the Octagon early. Alvarez was the first man to land after a tense stand off but Melendez quickly answered that right hand with a left hook of his own. The jab of Melendez was quickly established as a successful shot and on the fifth one landed he followed it up with a power elbow which rocked Alvarez to his very core and bloodied his nose. The Philly native shook it off quickly but looked a little less willing to attack as Melendez controlled the distance with his long limbs. Another right hand from Melendez as the round entered the last minute and a half put him further ahead as Alvarez just couldn’t find his mark. Two nice kicks from Alvarez, one low and one to the midsection, gave him a little success late in a the round clearly won by El Nino.

The face of Alvarez looked badly damaged between rounds as his left eye swelled up when he blew out his nose but that didn’t stop him landing a powerful right hand right off the bat.

Melendez, though, re-established his jab quickly and had Alvarez eat a power right hand behind it early in the stanza. Intelligently, Alvarez knew he had to change up his attacks and pushed Melendez against the fence for a moment of control but a separation due to a low blow ended that. Alvarez was successful again from the restart with a leg kick and stuffed a Melendez takedown as he started to settle into the job. Following that, a Melendez overhand right to the half-blind Alvarez allowed the former Bellator champion to slip down, put him against the fence and eventually get the takedown which put him in control of the round and although Melendez popped up without too much difficulty he did eat a spinning elbow for his trouble as the bell sounded.

After the grappling success in the second, Alvarez immediately came out in the final frame and took El Nino down against the fence. Melendez was again able to get back to his feet and this time stuffed the follow-up takedown before they went toe-to-toe, although doing so whilst gasping for air, in the middle of the cage. The Melendez jab and Alvarez leg kick were traded back and forth midway through the round before Alvarez re-established his cage control. Another takedown from Alvarez was followed by another quick stand up by Melendez as a close fight entered the closing stages. An Alvarez body kick was answered by a Melendez left hook before a spinning elbow from Alvarez drew blood from Melendez just before the bell sounded for the last time. After 15 hard fought minutes the judges rendered their decision a split one in favour of Eddie Alvarez to mark his very first UFC win and put Gilbert Melendez to 1-3 inside the Octagon.

Pendred Goes 4-0

The card also had huge interest for Irish fans as SBG welterweight Cathal Pendred took on Mexican favourite Augusto “Dodger” Montano on the fight pass prelims. During the walk to the cage the crowd made no qualms about which corner they were in although their man didn’t oblige with his own excitement once he entered the Octagon. In truth, it was a very slow and contemplative start from both men as they kept plenty of distance from the off. A leg kick from each man were the opening shots of the fight before they both also struck to the body with kicks. With a minute on the clock, as expected, the first Pendred takedown attempt came but Dodger was able to get his back against the cage and stop it. A couple of leg kicks from Pendred and an uppercut from Montano were the only real strikes of the next few minutes of the fight as both men struggled to land. A front kick from Montano, who spent much of his time on the run, to the body was successful late in the round while a couple more leg kicks from an increasingly frustrated Pendred kept him ticking over on the scoreboard.

Between rounds, Montano was warned by referee Herb Dean for not engaging and the warning seemed to immediately work. Pendred came out very aggressively and landed two leg kicks but was countered by a big right hand which wobbled his legs. The Dubliner quickly recovered and got back to his feet before shoving Montano against the fence to control him. After a prolonged fence clinch, Pendred was eventually able to take Dodger down and held him for a brief period before Dodger worked his way to his feet. Pendred, though, didn’t let him go and took him to the floor from the clinch again before quickly he moved to half guard. Montano tried desperately to get up but as he did so left himself open for Pendred to attempt a Japanese neck tie choke which looked tight but was unsuccessful. In the last minute of the round Pendred remained in control and even took the back which gave a slight opening to let Montano up just as the bell went.

A side kick from Montano, followed by an unsuccessful second were the opening shots of the final round but Pendred quickly ended the striking exchanges by pushing it against the fence yet again. To his credit, Montano was able escape this time and landed a nice knee on Pendred as he again shoved the Mexican against the Octagon. Montano landed some nice elbows as Pendred grinded him down and was unsuccessful with a kimura which did force the break. With two minutes left on the clock the round was anyone’s for the win. Pendred was the first to land with a leg kick while Montano, who refused to increase his output all night, threw a side kick to the face which didn’t look too hard to eat. Another leg kick from Pendred with 20 seconds on the clock preceded a cacophony of boos from the home crowd after a pretty dull outing. In the end Pendred was the clear winner despite the lack of action thoughout and took the unanimous decision from the judges to improve his UFC record to 4-0.

Elsewhere the card was an up and down affair as Tecia Torres, Johnny Case and flyweight prospect Henry Cejudo all picked up fairly uneventful decisions while Efrain Escudero, Patrick Williams and Kelvin Gastelum got impressive finishes. Outside of that, the fight of the night was undoubtedly Yair Rodriguez’s win over Charles Rosa which went back and forth, covered in blood, for three of the best rounds you’re likely to see this year.

Check out the full results below:

Fabricio Werdum def. Cain Velasquez via submission (guillotine) – R3, 2:13
Eddie Alvarez def. Gilbert Melendez via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Kelvin Gastelum def. Nate Marquardt via TKO (corner stoppage) – R2, 5:00
Yair Rodriguez def. Charles Rosa via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Tecia Torres def. Angela Hill via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Henry Cejudo def. Chico Camus via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Efrain Escudero def. Drew Dober via submission (guillotine) – R1, 0:54
Patrick Williams def. Alejandro Perez via submission (guillotine) – R1, 0:23
Johnny Case def. Francisco Trevino via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Cathal Pendred def. Augusto Montano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Gabriel Benitez def. Clay Collard via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma