Altitude Wins in Mexico City (UFC 188 Review)

ufc_188The UFC might not be growing the same extent as it was only a few years ago but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to expand.

There are plenty of places that the UFC wants to get to as they would love to be in every major city around the world.

That’s not possible but that is the attitude that the UFC has and they continue to make as much progress as they can by moving to new cities.

In November the UFC decided to continue this expansion to a place that seemed almost sure to be a hit despite not having a major UFC event ever.

It was a strange fact that Mexico had never seen a UFC event as they always seem to be one of the first places that major North American sports look to when thinking of expansion.

The NFL has consistently talked about putting a team in Mexico or at least making it a permanent spot on the calendar and yet the UFC never really entertained the thought.

That was until Cain Velasquez became a major name in the UFC heavyweight division.

After all Velasquez is the highest profile Mexican-American in the UFC and has a story that many can relate to in the USA.

Velasquez is the son of a labourer who went to America looking for a new life and found it when he met his wife in California and started a family.

Velasquez became a success story as his dad came from nothing and helped his son through college where he became a top-tier wrestler in the NCAA.

It is a story all too familiar in the US where many people enter the country looking for a better life and Velasquez is the poster boy for that story.

He never shies away from his heritage either, as he always walks out with a Mexican flag and has a custom mouthguard with the flag on it as well.

He has long been a representative of Mexican-Americans and so when he began rising through the ranks in the heavyweight division the natural path was to start talking about a fight in Mexico featuring Velasquez.

The opportunity came when Velasquez won the heavyweight title and eventually the UFC began planning a fight in Mexico City.

That fight was UFC 180 and at the top of the bill was Velasquez who would take on Fabricio Werdum for the heavyweight title.

It was a great chance for the UFC to make a big impression in yet another area as they continued their expansion plans.

Then disaster for the card, as Velasquez suffered an ACL tear while training and the fight was with the UFC pulling Velasquez from the card while he repaired his ACL.

Werdum was left to take on Mark Hunt for the interim title as they saved the card with a great end to a great fight.

Still something was missing, that big Mexican star that can carry a card in Mexico City and get people excited that the UFC was finally in Mexico.

The UFC decided to try it again, and once again the main event was to feature Velasquez against the interim title holder, Werdum.mma-sidebar.fw

The second time was the charm for Mexico City as Velasquez remained healthy after a long layoff and entered the octagon against Werdum to unify the titles.

The fight itself was an interesting matchup as two heavyweights that were not necessarily only about standing and trading.

Velasquez had that stand-up game advantage heading into the fight as his boxing is some of the best in the division.

He takes that boxing to a new level with the best cardio in the heavyweight division that allows him to press forward to press opponents into mistakes.

Werdum headed into the fight with the much better ground game, despite Velasquez’s wrestling background, as he is the best BJJ practitioner in the heavyweight division.

He has power to earn knockouts but with three BJJ world championships his strength has always been the mat where he consistently goes for submissions, a unique aspect in a division with few ground experts.

Both fighters still believed that they were better everywhere though as both had confidence in every aspect of the game and they showed that they had this complete confidence.

Werdum showed that he was completely confident in his stand-up despite being a BJJ practitioner as he willingly stood with Velasquez.

Meanwhile Velasquez was the one who looked to take the fight to the ground earning takedowns but rarely staying on the ground.

The strategy did not seem to be working for Werdum at the start in an even first round that likely leaned towards the champion.

Then came the second round and Velasquez, a fighter known for his cardio, seemed completely out of gas.

The altitude might have been the biggest issue as Velasquez had never fought in Mexico City before and despite training for two weeks before the fight at the high altitude it seemed to affect him more than Werdum who had already fought in the city before.

As Velasquez started to wear out, Werdum started to really get going in the stand-up as he punished the champion and almost put him down a few times.

Trying to get away from the stand-up Velasquez looked to go to the ground in the third round but taking Werdum down is always a bad idea.

While attempting a takedown, the champion was put into a guillotine choke that Werdum sunk in quickly.

There was no question from that point as the BJJ champion finished the fight ending the reign of Velasquez and handing him his second loss.

Velasquez was clearly affected by the altitude but could have also been effected by the fact that he had not fought in over a year.

He will look to learn from the loss and could be back as soon as his next fight to try to win his title back.

Werdum begins his time as the undisputed champion and will get back to work trying to clear out the division.

He may need to fight Velasquez again but other potential match-ups do exist as another Brazilian takes the title and tries to become a dominant champion.

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