UFC 188 recap: Werdum submits Velasquez to claim heavyweight title

Fabricio Werdum, left, solidified his standing as one of MMA's all-time great heavyweights with a submission of Cain Velasquez on June 13, 2015.

Fabricio Werdum, left, solidified his standing as one of MMA’s all-time great heavyweights with a submission of Cain Velasquez on June 13, 2015.

(Christian Palma / Associated Press)

UFC 188 takes place Saturday night from Mexico City, headlined by the return of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez against UFC interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. The proud Mexican-American Velasquez will fight for the first time in nearly two years and gets to fight for the first time in Mexico. For Werdum, it is an opportunity to score the biggest win of his career against the most dominant heavyweight of this generation. In the evening’s co-feature, action fighters Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez finally square off after the fight has been discussed for many years.

In preliminary action, local favorite Gabriel Benitez scored a dominant unanimous decision win over Clay Collard while Cathal Pendred defeated Augusto Montano via decision in an awful fight.

UFC heavyweight title: Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum

Velasquez is one of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history, with some even suggesting he might be the best. He hasn’t fought in nearly two years so it remains to be seen how he’ll look. Velasquez’s calling card has always been his conditioning, as he pushes the pace and just keeps coming like a fighter of much smaller size. He is the ultimate pressure fighter. Werdum is the interim champion and has five wins in a row. He started in MMA as a world class submission artist but he has developed into an extremely dangerous standup fighter as well. It will be up to Velasquez to keep Werdum in positions where the Brazilian is unable to threaten him.

Round 1. Velasquez looks to close distance and eats a hard right hand. Velasquez opens up with big shots on Werdum and punishes him by the cage. Werdum tries to answer with knees. The crowd is heavily behind Velasquez, chanting “Cain” and “Mexico.” They trade big punches from close range and then Velasquez gets a takedown. Velasquez lets Werdum back up. Velasquez moves right in swinging wildly and letting Werdum throw back. Werdum gets a takedown but Velasquez returns to his feet. This has been an incredibly fast pace and Velasquez isn’t showing a lot of respect for Werdum’s striking. Velasquez is mixing in kicks while repeatedly attacking the head. Velasquez is landing the better blows but both are landing solidly and Velasquez is cut. Velasquez throws Werdum down but then lets Werdum up again. Very exciting round. 10-9 Velasquez.


Round 2. Velasquez moves in with kicks and they exchange hard punches. Werdum hammers Velasquez with a heavy uppercut but Velasquez just keeps coming. Velasquez is bleeding badly and eats a knee. Werdum backs Velasquez up with huge punches but Velasquez just fires back. Velasquez looks in trouble and Werdum has him against the cage. Velasquez is tired but just keeps coming. Werdum lands 2 more hard punches and then a big uppercut. He follows with a knee. Werdum is really punishing Velasquez. Velasquez is moving slowly now in a way he basically never has over the entirety of his career. Werdum lands two hard punches and then drops Velasquez with a knee. Velasquez is in huge trouble here. 10-8 Werdum.

Round 3. Velasquez follows his corner’s instructions and gets a takedown early in the round. Velasquez is careful of the guard and Werdum stands up. On the feet, Werdum lands some jabs. Velasquez lands a head kick and moves in to closer range. Werdum looks for a guillotine choke from the standing position but doesn’t get it. Velasquez goes to ground with Werdum but Werdum grabs a guillotine choke and Velasquez is forced to tap.

Winner: Fabricio Werdum, submission, round 3.

Werdum was the first man to submit Fedor Emelianenko and now is the first man to submit Cain Velasquez. This is the sort of performance that solidifies Werdum as one of MMA’s great all time heavyweights. He turned in a phenomenal performance and defeated an incredibly difficult opponent.

Gilbert Melendez vs. Eddie Alvarez

Melendez and Alvarez are two of the sport’s preeminent action fighters, with countless classic fights over the years. This was a fight that was discussed for a while when Melendez was the champion of Strikeforce and Alvarez the champion of Bellator. Now they meet inside the UFC. Both fighters are coming off losses to upper echelon opponents, Melendez to Anthony Pettis and Alvarez to Donald Cerrone.

Round 1. Melendez throws out his jab frequently early. Alvarez holds off and then attacks with a power punch combination to the head and then body. Melendez cracks Alvarez with a hard right elbow that sends Alvarez backwards and opens up a cut. Both fighters are being cautious, particularly Alvarez. Melendez lands an overhand right. Melendez throws a few jabs and then eats a leg kick. Alvarez comes in and gets countered with a straight right hand. 10-9 Melendez.

Round 2. Alvarez’s left eye is completely swelled up and there’s no way he can see out of it. Alvarez looks for a takedown. Melendez briefly looks for a guillotine choke but gives that up and defends against the cage. After some extremely tentative standup, Alvarez looks for another takedown. He gets it with less than a minute left. Melendez stands back up. Alvarez lands a spinning back elbow late. 10-9 Alvarez.

Round 3. Alvarez gets a takedown early. Melendez gets back up. Alvarez goes for another takedown but that is blocked. Melendez lands some jabs to the face of Alvarez but Alvarez counters with a few shots of his own. Melendez is bloodied late. That was difficult to score. 10-9 Alvarez, 29-28 Alvarez.

Winner: Eddie Alvarez, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

That fight was a massive disappointment. Expected to be a war, both fighters looked bad and fought hesitantly. UFC announcer Joe Rogan did himself no favors by labeling the fight great and that it lived up to expectations, a preposterous and invalid opinion.

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nate Marquardt

Gastelum is considered a top rising star in the sport, just 23 with a 10-1 MMA record and wins over Jake Ellenberger, Rick Story and Uriah Hall. He is coming off his first loss, a split decision defeat against Tyron Woodley. Marquardt is a highly accomplished veteran, a former Pancrase and Strikeforce champion and challenger to Anderson Silva’s UFC middleweight title. However, he has lost 4 of 5 and is widely considered a fighter on the way out.

Round 1. Gastelum walks Marquardt down and lands some hard punches with Marquardt backed against the cage. Gastelum lands a stiff 1-2 punch combination to the chin of Marquardt and lands another big punch moments later. He’s connecting with force. Marquardt clinches and lands a few punches from close range before backing off. Marquardt looks fo a takedown but doesn’t get it. Gastelum then goes for a takedown of his own and does get it with a minute left in the round. Gastelum takes Marquardt’s back. Marquardt gets out but Gastelum punishes him with some hard punches back on the feet as the round concludes. 10-9 Gastelum.

Round 2. Gastelum utilizes his boxing primarily early in the second, peppering Marquardt with punches from different angles. Marquardt is having trouble getting off. Gastelum hammers Marquardt with some big knees and Marquardt goes down. Gastelum follows with punches on the ground. Gastelum attacks Marquardt with punches from behind and retains top position when Marquardt attempts to sweep. Marquardt looks for a heel hook late but Gastelum is too slippery. 10-8 Gastelum.

Marquardt’s trainer Trevor Wittman calls for the fight to end between rounds.

Winner: Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, round 2.

Gastelum did what he was expected to do, dominating a respected but shopworn fighter. His next big challenge will be making 170 pounds as he has made it clear that is the weight class he wants to compete at.

Yair Rodriguez vs. Charles Rosa

Rodriguez was the other winner on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter Latin America, capturing the featherweight tournament crown. He is 4-1 in MMA and is just coming into his own at the young age of 22. Rosa is an American Top Team product with a 10-1 MMA record. Most of his wins have come via submission.

Round 1. Rodriguez comes out with a series of wild kicks. He gets caught with one leg and throws a kick with another. He follows with a flying kick and then a flying knee. As they come in close range, Rodriguez pulls guard and then looks to lock up a triangle choke submission on Rosa. Rosa finally escapes out of the triangle and then drops down some punches from top position. Rodriguez attempts to stand up. Rosa at the same time tries to get his hooks in and control Rodriguez’s back but Rodriguez wins that and gets back up. However, Rosa proceeds to throw Rodriguez back down to the canvas impressively. Rosa looks to set up what might have been a knee bar but doesn’t come close and they end up back on their feet as the round concludes. 10-9 Rosa.

Round 2. Rodriguez again opens with some aggressive kicks. He lands a front leg side kick. Rosa looks to close distance as Rodriguez is tricky to deal with from range. Rodriguez gets back into longer range. Rosa presses in for a takedown but it is blocked. Rosa looks like he may be tiring, understandable given the altitude and pace of the first round. Rosa goes for a takedown but Rodriguez reverses and takes top position. However, he just stands back up. Rosa is bleeding badly into the eye. Rosa moves in with punches and looks for a takedown but can’t get it. Rosa moves in and looks to set up a leg lock but doesn’t get it. Rosa gets a takedown but Rodriguez reverses into top position and swarms with a series of elbows from the top. 10-9 Rodriguez. Rosa isn’t in a great position given how much more energy Rodriguez appears to have going into the third.

Round 3. Rosa gets a much needed takedown. He postures up and lands punches from the top. Rodriguez grabs a triangle from the bottom and looks to get the choke like in the first. Rosa slips out. Rosa looks for a crucifix but can’t get it and Rodriguez returns to the feet. Rosa lands a punch and gets another takedown. Rosa starts in side control but Rodriguez gets guard. Rosa then works back into side control. Rodriguez gets Rosa back into his guard but time is running out. 10-9 Rosa, 29-28 Rosa.

Winner: Yair Rodriguez, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Rodriguez turned in a heck of a performance there. Always aggressively attacking, he is a fun fighter to watch and earned a close decision over a tough opponent. Rodriguez threw up during his postfight interview.

Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill

Torres is one of the top contenders for the women’s strawweight title and is looking to put together the sort of performances that could earn her a title shot. Hill is only 2-0 in official MMA competition with a quick loss on the Ultimate Fighter that technically qualifies as an exhibition. She has shown some promise but is in the UFC mostly because her division is thin with experienced, quality talent.

Round 1. Hill presses the action early, moving forward while Torres looks to counter. Torres ducks down and looks for a takedown but Hill defends well. They trade knees to the body in the clinch. Torres lands a right hand as they break. Torres then shoots in for another takedown attempt and this time she gets it. Torres lands punches from the top in Hill’s half guard. Hill works back into full guard and the round ends. 10-9 Torres.

Round 2. Hill rushes in with a right hand. Torres changes levels and gets a takedown. This time she has the more beneficial side control position. Hill very quickly gets Torres back into her half guard. Torres lands a few punches and then regains side control. Torres then works her way into full mount but Hill responds by bucking and getting Torres back into half guard. Referee John McCarthy stands the fighters back up. Torres clinches and looks to go back to the ground. 10-9 Torres.

Round 3. Each fighter lands a low kick early. The fight progresses into more of a boxing contest and then Torres looks for another takedown. Hill fends it off but after a long struggle, Torres looks for the takedown again. The time runs out and the crowd boos. 10-9 Torres, 30-27 Torres.

Winner: Tecia Torres, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).

Torres clearly won the bout, but given her lackluster performance against a relatively weak opponent, it won’t do her a lot of good in her goal of advancing towards a title shot.

Henry Cejudo vs. Chico Camus

Cejudo, an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling, is being groomed for a title shot against dominant flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. He is 8-0 in MMA and 2-0 in the UFC but hasn’t yet put it all together. Camus hasn’t particularly distinguished himself in UFC competition but is coming off a victory over respected contender Brad Pickett.

Round 1. The fighters exchange punches to start the fight, with each man possessing notable hand speed. Cejudo clinches and looks for a takedown but doesn’t come close. Camus briefly knocks down Cejudo with a right hook, but Cejudo wasn’t in any sort of danger. Cejudo clinches again but doesn’t come close to getting a takedown. He lands a punch on separation. Cejudo looks for another takedown but it is again brushed off and Camus lands a few punches. Camus follows with a few more punches and Cejudo again clinches against the cage. Camus stops him again and lands a few more punches. Cejudo shoots in for a takedown but it is stuffed once more by Camus. Cejudo slams Camus late but Camus gets right back up. Close round. 10-9 Camus.

Round 2. Camus returns to his first round approach, throwing straight punches and not doing anything carelessly so as to leave Cejudo an opportunity to get a takedown. Cejudo does land a few solid kicks and goes for another takedown that doesn’t come to fruition. Camus lands a few straight punches and prevents Cejudo on another takedown attempt. Camus connects with a few more punches from distance. The punch totals indicate Cejudo has landed significantly more punches, but those have to be ineffectual clinch shots because from range Camus is doing better. 10-9 Camus.

Round 3. Cejudo clinches and looks for a takedown but doesn’t come close yet again. Cejudo clinches and lands a few punches by the cage as the fighters break away. Cejudo follows up with a couple punches and a kick moments later. Camus answers back with some straight punches and Camus looks for a takedown of his own. Camus has to give it up. Camus lands a hard left hand. Cejudo finally gets a takedown with less than 30 seconds left. 10-9 Cejudo, 29-28 Camus.

Winner: Henry Cejudo, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).

Cejudo’s wrestling was ineffective and he won mostly by instigating clinches. There’s nothing wrong with the judges’ scores but this is not a fight that will get anyone excited for Cejudo vs. Demetrious Johnson.

Johnny Case vs. Francisco Trevino

Case, who trains out of the respected Alliance MMA camp in San Diego, won his first two UFC bouts and looks for his 11th straight MMA victory. Trevino is 12-0 in his own right but at age 33, is on the older side for a prospect with only a few bouts on a high profile stage.

Round 1. Case comes out strong, landing a few solid combinations mixing up punches and a few kicks. Trevino encourages him to bring it on, and Case obliges by continuing to pour on the offense. Trevino looks a little undersized compared to Case and Case looks more skilled as well. Trevino is landing a number of leg kicks but Case is throwing and landing more. Case connects with a nice uppercut as Trevino moves in. Case takes an eye poke and screams out in pain. Case’s eye is in bad shape but he returns to action given how well the fight was going for him. Case takes Trevino down late and lands some punches before the round concludes. All Case. 10-9 Case.

Round 2. Case gets a takedown early in the second round. His eye is still in bad shape and he’s forced to use his ground game as a result. He’s controlling Trevino just as well on the ground as he did on the feet. He takes Trevino’s back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. He doesn’t get it and then looks for a guillotine choke and doesn’t get that either, losing his dominant position. Trevino ends up on top but Case quickly works his way back to his feet. Case then gets another takedown. 10-9 Case.

Round 3. Trevino lands a few kicks at the start of the round. Case isn’t controlling the standup to nearly the degree that he did earlier and as a result, he goes for a takedown halfway through. Trevino looks for a kimura from the bottom but does not come close to securing it. Trevino gets back to his feet and presses Case up against the cage. Case brushes him off the fighters exchange to end the round and fight. The third round was closer. 10-9 Case, 30-27 Case.

Winner: Johnny Case, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Case is a much higher caliber of fighter than Trevino, and dominated the fight even after taking a severe eye poke that limited his vision for the majority of the contest. If it hadn’t been for the eye poke, he might have secured a finish.

Alejandro Perez vs. Patrick Williams

Perez won the first season of Ultimate Fighter: Latin America and sports a 15-5 MMA record. Williams has a wrestling background but is only 7-4 in MMA against relatively weak opposition. He was knocked out with a flying knee in his UFC debut.

Round 1. Williams rocks Perez with a punch early in the first round. He then grabs a guillotine choke and chokes Perez unconscious.

Winner: Patrick Williams, submission, round 1.

Williams made history with the fastest win in UFC/WEC bantamweight history. He just annihilated Perez in short order, a sad opening UFC fight for the Ultimate Fighter Latin America winner. They gave him a soft first opponent and that soft first opponent beat him with ease.

Efrain Escudero vs. Drew Dober

Escudero won the 8th season of the Ultimate Fighter, but washed out of the UFC twice with a series of losses. He is 1-1 in his third stint in the UFC. Dober is 1-2 with 1 no contest in the UFC. He is coming off the worst referee stoppage in UFC history. The Brazilian referee originally gave the fight to his Brazilian opponent in Brazil but the decision was thankfully overturned given Dober wasn’t in anything resembling trouble.

Round 1. Dober goes off balance throwing a kick and Escudero uses the opportunity to lock in a guillotine choke. Dober fights to avoid submitting for a long period of time but Escudero keeps cranking it and finally Dober is forced tap out from the standing position.

Winner: Efrain Escudero, submission, round 1.

That had to have been an extremely satisfying win for Escudero, who has always gone by the nickname of “Hecho en Mexico.” He took advantage of a small mistake and picked up the emphatic quick victory.

Follow on Twitter at @ToddMartinMMA.