UFC 196: Werdum vs. Velasquez 2 Date: February 6th, 2016 Location: Las Vegas, Nevada Venue: MGM Grand Garden Arena Broadcast: Pay-Per-View UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum For years best known as the man who defeated Fedor Emelianenko to end his remarkable winning streak, Fabricio Werdum has reached new highs in his MMA career since returning to the UFC in 2012. Victories over Roy Nelson, Mike Russow, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were expected upon re-entering the Octagon. A 25-minute beatdown of Travis Browne in which he flexed his newly honed striking skills was not, and that earned him a title shot which became a chance at the interim heavyweight title. Shockingly, he knocked out Mark Hunt to capture that belt. By far his most impressive performance was in capturing the true heavyweight title from Cain Velasquez, a bout in which he dominated the reigning champion on the feet, forcing him into a sloppy takedown which resulted in almost an immediate guillotine submission. Now he is set to defend his title for the first time against Velasquez in the main event of the UFC’s annual Super Bowl weekend show. UFC Heavyweight Contender Cain Velasquez Cain Velasquez has been touted for greatness since he began his MMA career. Early on, the MMA world heard stories of a heavyweight at American Kickboxing Academy with tireless cardio and excellent wrestling. Velasquez carried those tools to a dominant 8-0 start to his career, capturing the UFC heavyweight title in the process. He dropped his belt to Junior dos Santos in his first defense, but recaptured it just over a year later with one of the more dominating performances amongst recent title fights. A pair of defenses followed, but then injuries put the champion on the shelf for nearly two years. When he returned to defend his title against Fabricio Werdum, he was simply unable to match the striking and pace from the Brazilian, as it became the second time in his career he dropped the title after a year-plus layoff. Much like he did against dos Santos previously, Velasquez hopes to right that wrong against Werdum at UFC 196. UFC 196 Opening Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Velasquez a -160 favorite (bet $160 to win $100) with the comeback on Werdum at +130 (bet $100 to win $130) at 5Dimes Sportsbook. These odds are a far cry from the -475 Velasquez opened for their UFC 188 encounter. However, given how that fight played out, the odds almost seem backwards. While the narrative heading into the rematch will be about Velasquez’s layoff, injuries, and this fight playing out at sea-level (regardless of the fact that Las Vegas is nearly half a mile above sea-level), what we really should have taken away from that bout was how vastly superior Werdum was in the striking, and how easily he was able to nullify Velasquez’s vaunted clinch game. Unless Velasquez corrects those more pressing issues, his cardio will not matter in the rematch, and I simply don’t think he has the tools on the feet to compete with Werdum, which means he has to beat perhaps the greatest heavyweight BJJ practitioner ever on the ground.