Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight contenders Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis will battle this Saturday (Oct. 7, 2017) at UFC 216 inside T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It’s been such a bizarre few years for Werdum that I’m having a difficult time summing it all up in just a couple sentences. He captured the title in a spectacular performance before losing it in a sloppy one. In his bounce back win, Werdum opened every round with a sprinting jump kick. Last time out, Werdum nearly knocked out Alistair Overeem in a back-and-forth battle that ultimately saw him lose by the thinnest of margins. Between all this, he has criticized Reebok resulting in his release from commentary, push kicked Edmond Tarverdyan, and used offensive slurs opposite Lightweight contender Tony Ferguson, who threatened to ankle pick the former Heavyweight kingpin.
Meanwhile, Lewis is back in the biggest fight of his career just four months after sort of retiring. He’s won six of seven, and this bout could very well push him into the immediate title mix.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (Pride FC: Total Elimination), Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum), Cain Velasquez (UFC 188), Travis Browne (UFC 203, UFC on FOX 11), Mark Hunt (UFC 180)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 198), Alistair Overeem (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC 90)
Keys to Victory: Inconsistent results or no, Werdum is one of the most skilled and experienced fighters in his division. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace packs a very dangerous — if offensively minded — Muay Thai game that complements his willingness to fight from his back well.
On a technical level, Werdum is obviously far above Lewis. At the same time, Lewis has an unmatchable prowess in swangin-and-bangin, the art of being a heavy-handed “Beast” who can stand up whenever taken down.
He definitely poses a threat to “Vai Cavalo.”
Werdum needs to be smart in this one. He can definitely be hittable, which is a bad trait opposite Lewis. However, that doesn’t mean Werdum should abandon his aggression … he just needs to manage it.
Lewis does his best in the pocket, while Werdum prefers kicking from the outside. Without fear of the takedown, Werdum should be ripping kicks as hard as he can to the legs and mid-section of his opponent. That tends to freeze Lewis, which is definitely what Werdum wants.
If he can wound Lewis without over-exposing himself, the takedown — and thus the submission — will come.
Key Wins: Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 105), Roy Nelson (UFC Fight Night 90), Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 102), Gabriel Gonzaga (UFC Fight Night 86)
Key Losses: Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 110), Shawn Jordan (UFC Fight Night 68), Matt Mitrione (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: I already explained Lewis’ game in the Werdum section: He throws down, has insane power, and a unique ability to simply stand up after opponents take him down. His conditioning isn’t perfect, but Lewis retains power even deep into his exhaustion.
Lewis needs to make this fight a scrap, plain and simple. Werdum has all the advantages mentioned, but if Lewis can draw him into a brawl and crack him, none of that matters. On another note, if Lewis does stun Werdum, he should follow him to the mat. Werdum may have famously tricked Fedor Emelianenko into falling into a triangle choke, but Werdum has gotten away with pulling guard for far too long now. Lewis is perhaps the most violently ground striker in the division; therefore, if he can get on top and try to punch Werdum in the face, he should do so.
Bottom Line: It’s a very important bout for the Heavyweight division.
The division is without a clear top contender right now. There’s a few men in the mix of course — Alistair Overeem, Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov to name a few. While the winner here won’t necessarily assert his name past all of those fighters, it does put him in a position to face whoever does not receive the title shot.
As for the loser, it’s a setback, but Heavyweight is Heavyweight. Without many up-and-comers, a single injury could create a gap for the loser to jump back into the title picture. All that said, Werdum is 40 years old, which is fairly old even by Heavyweight standards. He can’t keep fighting forever, so that does put an added bit of pressure to perform in each fight.
At UFC 216, Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis will throw down in a Heavyweight scrap. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?