UFC 188 was the latest in a string of slightly disappointing UFC cards. The undercard featured a medley of unranked fighters across many of the lighter divisions. We saw two fights finished in under a minute on the FX prelims, both by standing guillotine choke. That’s a fairly monumental feat, but it’s a feat unfortunately ill-served back to back on network television. The quick finishes threw off the pacing of most of the televised prelims, thus turning them into long stretches of commercials between the underwhelming opening fight and the underwhelming final fight. Outside of the main event, there just wasn’t much at stake for a pay-per-view, but we still have a few big stories coming out of an event that offered relatively little in terms of high stakes battles.
Fabricio Werdum Wins Undisputed Gold
Fabricio Werdum became the new undisputed UFC heavyweight champ in a three round battle capped by a tight guillotine on defending king Cain Velasquez. The altitude of Mexico City was an important factor in many of UFC 188’s battles. At 10,000 feet above sea level, the thin air was a tremendous test of cardio to fighters who are mostly used to training at much lower heights. As Joe Rogan pointed out during the fight, Werdum moved to Mexico three months ago to train for this fight and was more acclimated to the conditions. Velasquez was a different story, and by the end of the first round he was already showing signs of attrition.
The signature aggression of Velasquez was there and in full effect during the first round. Velasquez did a good job of controlling the positioning of Werdum and blasted him with some nice shots. Werdum’s patience and toughness were key. Velasquez has always been able to keep the pace of the fight from opening to closing bells, and though the spirit was there, the body was not able to maintain the assault. Fabricio busted Cain open near the end of the first, and from there it was mostly Werdum’s fight. The more conservative Werdum began slipping Velasquez’s increasingly loose punches and landing some of his own. By the third round, Velasquez went for a very telegraphed takedown and straight into a tight guillotine.
Who’s Next in Line?
After taking two years off and dropping the belt unceremoniously, it’s doubtful that Velasquez will get an immediate rematch, especially considering how this same scenario played out for Anthony Pettis earlier in the year. So who’s first up for the new champ?
Well, that depends. In the top five, we currently have Cain fluttering about somewhere, dos Santos, Stipe Miocic, Andrei Arlovski, and Travis Browne. Werdum already beat Browne pretty soundly, plus he’s coming off of a loss to Arlovski. The division is bad, but it’s not light heavyweight bad yet.
Stipe Miocic may get the nod. He has a win over Mark Hunt, the last challenger for the interim heavyweight belt, but he also has a recent loss to Junior dos Santos. Dos Santos or Arlovski seems to be the best choice. Both have wins over Werdum at earlier stages of their careers. Dos Santos also took home a knockout of the night award for his first round TKO at UFC 90. His biggest obstacle is the fact that Velasquez beat him twice, but otherwise he’s undefeated in the UFC. He and Velasquez are the top of the division, so at this point it’s a question of who faces the champ and who plays gatekeeper for the near future.
Arlovski won a decision over Werdum in 2007, but it seems his bubble will soon burst. He’s riding a five fight win streak and has won nine of his last eleven. His only loss since 2011 is to Anthony Johnson. He has wins over current and former top ten competitors such as Brendan Schaub, Antonio Silva, and Travis Browne.
As for Velasquez, he certainly deserves a top guy as well. It’s hard to say who will get the next crack at the former champ. Miocic will be the likely choice if they want to set up a match with title implications for Miocic. Otherwise, Browne or Hunt would make good choices as all of them are coming off of recent losses.
Gastelum TKOs Marquardt, Wants to Return to 170
TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum fought his first and perhaps only fight at middleweight and battered Nate Marquardt for two full rounds before Marquardt’s corner threw in the towel. It looked as if Gastelum was going to finish the fight at a couple of points in the first as he battered his unwilling foe against the cage, but referee Dan Miragliotta never pulled the trigger on the stop.
It was Gastelum’s biggest win to date, but the young competitor has been vocal in recent weeks about how he knows he won’t be able to hang with top guys in the division like Weidman, Rockhold, and Souza and doesn’t want to stay there. Dana White shot down the idea.
“I love this kid. He’s such a great fighter. I love how he goes in with a kid like Marquardt and stands right in the pocket with him and exchanges. His standup looked great tonight. But I don’t believe he can make 170. I honestly don’t believe he can make 170.
He’s going to have to get serious and get a nutritionist. He had to cut to make 185, and he came in right on the nose, so I am the furthest from confident that he is capable of making 170, no matter how much I like him or how much he says he can do it, I don’t believe him.” - Dana White
Gastelum has missed 170 twice. He clocked in ten pounds over during his last fight and lost a split decision to Tyron Woodley.
Eddie Alvarez Trumps Gilbert Melendez via Split D
Eddie Alvarez finally tasted victory inside a UFC cage after dropping his first fight to number one contender Donald Cerrone and pulling out of a scheduled contest against former champ Benson Henderson. Alvarez wanted to fight the best of the best when he signed to the UFC and got that against number four ranked Gilbert Melendez. Melendez broke Eddie’s nose en route to winning the first round, but Alvarez turned the tide in round two. He was able to win the round in the eyes of two of the judges and continued to definitely win the third.
Alvarez will likely want another top five guy after his win. Edson Barboza seems like the most fun candidate for a fight against him, but we may also finally get to see the Benson Henderson match. If nothing else, the lightweight division is very busy and he will have to be patient to see how things play out and which fighters are freed up in the near future.
Full Fight Results
- Fabricio Werdum defeated Cain Velasquez at 2:13 of the 3 round by guillotine choke
- Eddie Alvarez defeated Gilbert Melendez by split decision. (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Kelvin Gastelum defeated Nate Marquardt at 5:00 of the 2nd round by TKO - corner stoppage
- Yair Rodriguez defeated Charles Rosa by split decision. (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
- Tecia Torres defeated Angela Hill by unanimous decision. (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Henry Cejudo defeated Chico Camus by unanimous decision. (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Efrain Escudero defeated Drew Dober at 0:54 of the 1st round by standing guillotine choke
- Patrick Williams defeated Alejandro Perez at 0:23 of the 1st round by standing guillotine choke
- Johnny Case defeated Francisco Trevino by unanimous decision. (30-27 x 3)
- Cathal Pendred defeated Augusto Montano by unanimous decision. (29-28 x 3)
- Gabriel Benitez defeated Clay Collard by unanimous decision. (30-27 x 3)