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What’s next for new UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum?



Next Friday will mark the anniversary of the greatest upset in Heavyweight MMA history. It’ll be five years ago since Fabricio Werdum forced stoic legend Fedor Emelianenko to make one single tap that would end a 28-fight unbeaten streak. It was that one unforgettable tap on Werdum’s left leg to a triangle armbar combo after being coaxed into Werdum’s web that would end nearly a decade of dominance.

This past weekend at UFC 188, Werdum submitted another man who has been linked in the conversation with Fedor as the greatest heavyweight of all-time. Werdum choked out the fighter formerly known as “The Baddest Man on the Planet” with a guillotine choke to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion of the world.

Werdum is now 6-0 since returning to the UFC and 9-1 over his past 10 fights. The lone loss came to Alistair Overeem in one of the most embarrassing heavyweight fights in Strikeforce history; Werdum repeatedly tried to get Overeem to join him on the canvas but the “horse meat assassin” refused to take the bait – making for a comically horrendous display. Now, with a scary Muay Thai game (thanks to Rafael Cordeiro and company at Kings MMA) to match his already dangerous jiu-jitsu game, at the ripe young age of 37, Werdum has put it all together making him a force to be reckoned with for any heavyweight worthy of a title shot. So, the question is, who’s first up for the Werdum? Here’s a list of five men who are more than likely champing at the bit to get a piece of the Brazilian Vai Cavalo’s gold.


Cain Velasquez post-fight after dropping his strap to Werdum in Mexico City

1. Cain Velasquez (13-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC)

I’m not a fan of immediate title rematches unless they are warranted. If the fight was close (Hendricks-Lawler I, Edgar-Maynard II etc.) then that’s fine. This fight wasn’t close and it ended in a finish to boot. Now, if the champion has defended his/her title somewhere close to a handful of times that’s fine as well: Jose Aldo, Ronda Rousey, Demetrious Johnson and now Chris Weidman fit that category – Velasquez doesn’t. Factor in that Velasquez has only defended said title twice during his run since winning it back in late 2012. While it wasn’t exactly his fault, I’d like to see him take a fight against a top ten opponent, à la Hendricks-Brown, before getting a crack at becoming a 3-time world champion.

Ever the company man, Werdum stated that he’s willing to give Velasquez an immediate rematch in Vegas. I’m not. Let’s keep it moving.


Arlovski-Werdum staredown ahead of UFC 70 in Manchester, England

2. Andrei Arlovski (24-10 MMA, 13-4 UFC)

Like Werdum, another guy who’s really put it together during his second stint with the UFC is Andrei Arlovski. Everyone’s favorite “Pitbull” welcomed Werdum to the UFC the hard way back at UFC 70 all the way back in 2007. Arlovski’s had his ups and downs after leaving the promotion for greener pastures. All that matters know though is that he’s back.

Arlovksi met some criticism following his first bout back inside the octagon last summer against Brendan Schaub. And while he didn’t exactly lit the world on fire – he left with the all important W. By attaching a KO victory over “Bigfoot” Silva and a TKO over top ranked Travis Browne that was as powerful as it was disturbing last month at UFC 187 to that initial victory over Schaub, we’re looking at a man who could be in line for a title shot.

You also have to factor in Arlovski’s ability to put asses in the seats. During his short tenure with World Series of Fighting he proved how much he’s still loved by the old school mixed martial arts faithful – if you will. Everybody loves a comeback story and Arlovski getting a chance to fight for a UFC title in 2015 would be just as exciting, crazy, and unlikely as say, well, Robbie Lawler fighting for a UFC title in 2014? Who’s next?

3. Stipe Miocic (13-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC)

After his record setting performance against Mark Hunt in Australia this past spring, there can’t be a whole lot of folks in the heavyweight division rushing to sign the dotted line opposite this guy.

The former baseball player turned heavyweight fighter currently holds a winning percentage of .777 during his 9 fight UFC career with his only losses coming against Stefan Struve and Junior dos Santos. He’s learned a lot since the Struve loss and the Dos Santos fight really could’ve went either way on the judges scorecards.

Miocic getting a title shot wouldn’t be a bad idea. That said, I’d rather see Velasquez up next for the Ohio born and bred slugger in a true number #1 contenders bout.

4. Junior dos Santos (17-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC)

Why JDS you say? I say, why not. Here’s a quick argument for him:

Story line: JDS made his UFC debut by knocking Werdum right out-of-town with a vicious uppercut that still has to haunt the current champion.

Resume: JDS is a former heavyweight champion who still holds the longest winning streak in UFC history with 9, a streak that began with his KO of Werdum.

You can also factor in his victory over Miocic and that incredible spinning wheel kick KO of Mark Hunt.

Here’s a quick argument against JDS:

The Velasquez Factor: That beautiful KO over Mark Hunt was sandwiched in between two beat downs via Cain Velasquez – the man Werdum just handled this past weekend.

Been there done that: We could use some new blood.

Country versus Country: Having two strong UFC heavyweights out of Brazil near the top is better than having one. The UFC needs to keep both of these men relevant right now with their Brazil heavy schedule.


“Evil” Ben Rothwell is no laughing matter

5. Ben Rothwell (35-9 MMA, 6-4 UFC)

After going 2-3 in his first 5 fights with the promotion, “Big” Ben has put together a nice little 3-fight winning streak. Each one has been more impressive than the last. His post-fight antics after his most recent submission victory over Matt Mitrione last weekend in the NOLA has made it impossible to ignore a man who would normally fly under the radar.

Right now, I still believe Rothwell is one or two wins away due to the men on this list above him. With the abundance of high-profile injuries over the past few years it’d be a good idea for the UFC brass to tell Rothwell to stay ready just in case something untimely occurs.


Werdum and Fedor face off ahead of their 2010 bout (Esther Lin)

Honorable Mention: Fedor (34-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC)

Enter this one into the highly unlikely category. Fedor Emelianenko is the one man who escaped the clutches of Dana White and company since the beginning of the Zuffa era. Fedor retired back in the summer of 2012 on a high note after knocking out Pedro Rizzo in St. Petersburg. If Fedor has one iota of fight left in him this would be the time for him to come back. Werdum shocked the world back in 2010 – Fedor can return the favor when the UFC debuts in New York later this year. Imagine that.

cover image credit – Getty Images

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