By @fightnomics It’s a long-delayed title matchup a year in the making. An extended Ultimate Fighter coaching build-up and then an injury that forced Cain Velasquez from his first matchup with Fabricio Werdum means Velasquez has now been out of the cage for 602 days. The mulligan at the UFC’s Mexican debut saw Werdum knock out Mark Hunt to win the interim belt, but everyone is fully aware that Velasquez is the true champion, and that includes the betting public. Legacy champion Velasquez has remained a sizable favorite, currently priced at -500 over the interim champ underdog at +400. The card at UFC 180 saw similar odds favoring Velasquez, but Werdum has had the chance to impress more recently than Velasquez going into UFC 188. Let’s see how they line up on the stat line. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional tale of the tape reveals a big factor in this matchup, the Youth Advantage for Velasquez. It’s multiplied by the damage done in “fight years,” with nearly twice as many fights for the older man, and far more damage taken over time. Otherwise the men are similarly sized and use the same stance, but the initial edge favors Velasquez. Striking Matchup: The standing matchup should determine the outcome. Both men have accurate striking but Werdum is recognized as the more technical and diverse striker. Velasquez, however, has significantly evolved his standup since transitioning as a wrestler and actually has more T/KO wins in the UFC than any other Heavyweight. His nine career UFC knockdowns have come at a very high rate, meaning he is definitely the hardest hitter on the entire fight card. And Werdum on the flipside has been dropped many more times. That pairing of Cain’s power versus an older chin is extreme and a critical factor here. Yet Werdum remains a threat with his own striking, and Cain has been wobbled before. Werdum’s Muay Thai style of striking means he mixes things up with more diverse attacks, including leg kicks and even flying knees. While Werdum has been knocked down numerous times, he’s managed to bounce back against experienced strikers, and he is the more technical striker of the two with higher accuracy and better defense. Should these two go toe-to-toe, the fight is unlikely to last very long. But if it does, expect the high-paced, high-pressure striking of Velasquez to win the rounds, and likely hold up better at the high elevation in Mexico City. Grappling Matchup: The ground matchup is a complete contrast in styles. Velasquez boasts impressive wrestling credentials that have led him to dominate the who’s who of the division on the mat. His ground and pound is dangerous, and his takedowns come frequently. He frequently makes his way to side control while raining down a good volume of strikes. While hasn’t ever succeeded with submissions, he hasn’t needed to. If this fight goes to the ground it will undoubtedly be Cain on top. The real question here is if Velasquez has good enough submission defense to engage Werdum for very long on the mat. That’s because Werdum is considered the best grappler on the planet at Heavyweight, and has invited plenty of opponents into his guard. This is the man who pulled off the famous submission of Fedor Emelianenko, just one of nine career wins by submission, which is more than any other method of victory for Werdum. And that’s just his MMA wins, which pale in comparison to a long and storied career in competitive submission grappling. He is likely to allow himself to be taken down in the hopes that he can catch Velasquez in a choke or arm lock. But he’ll also have to deal with some heavy leather, and if he doesn’t get a submission early, time will take its toll in many ways. Fightnomics Pick: Under/Fight Does Not Go the Distance (Velasquez by TKO) (Click for latest MMA odds) Fightnomics Recommended Play: Overall there’s a lean towards Velasquez. But the price for the legacy champ is steep and offers a low return, because he’s also vulnerable should he mistime an exchange or get roped into Werdum’s guard. The better angles are in the total and the props because of so much finishing potential on the feet, as well as on the ground. The Under of 2.5 rounds is currently +110, which is surprising for a Heavyweight matchup, especially one with two guys who are so dangerous. Plus money on the Under is a good play. And if you’re taking Velasquez, you might as well do it by T/KO at -110, as it’s unlikely that he would get a submission, and if the fight does last into later rounds, Werdum will not be able to hold up the way Junior dos Santos did. Heavy plays on Velasquez can also be hedged with a prop on Werdum inside the distance at +505, because if the fight somehow goes the distance, Velasquez will have won the standup pace and also gotten top control on the ground, making Werdum by Decision very unlikely. For information on getting the “Fightnomics” the book, go here.