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UFC 180 complete fighter breakdown, Fabricio 'Vai Cavalo' Werdum edition resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 180 headliner Fabricio Werdum, who will have to adjust for Mark Hunt this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) at the UFC 180 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Submission ace, Fabricio Werdum, will look to earn the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight interim belt by defeating kickboxing veteran, Mark Hunt, this Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) inside Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

Werdum has come a long way from the jiu-jitsu expert who used to desperately rush into the clinch. He's now a seasoned striker with plenty of tricks up his sleeve, who's capable of handing out five-round beat downs like Travis Browne recently received.

Not only is Werdum's kickboxing becoming more and more lethal with each fight, but the Brazilian's grappling skills are still the best in the division. With this combination, Werdum poses a challenge to every heavyweight in the division, including Cain Velasquez.

But is it enough to defeat Mark Hunt?

Let's take a closer look.


Werdum has spent a number of years training with Rafael Cordeiro, under whom he has earned a brown belt in Muay Thai. Not only does Werdum's arsenal pack a huge number of strikes, but he fully utilizes his lengthy build better than the vast majority of fighters, both with his kicks and clinch work.

For the most part, Werdum makes his opponent come to him. Early on, "Vai Cavalo" will constantly circle and occasionally plant with a leg kick. As the fight progresses, Werdum will explode into bursts of offense more and more, while waiting for his opponent to strike before turning to his lateral movement.

Initially, Werdum will only throw his straight punches. As he continues to establish his range with different combinations of jabs and crosses, Werdum will begin to build off these strikes. This is where Werdum is at his best, as Werdum has a number of options.

In his bout with Roy Nelson, Werdum showed off his ability to tie knee strikes into his combination. After lighting Nelson up with a series of punches, the Brazilian would reach out and grab a double collar tie on the covered up "Big Country." Occasionally, Werdum will break off the clinch after a singe knee and return to his punches, which essentially resets all of his options.

In the clinch, Werdum does a couple things to make his offense even more effective. Firstly, he controls his opponent's posture very well with his grip, keeping their necks bent down. Usually, Werdum's height advantage makes this easier for him, though he was forced to adjust against Browne.

Additionally, Werdum mixes his targets very well. Werdum frequently secured the full Muay Thai plum against Roy Nelson and then punished his mid-section with knees. As soon as Nelson went to punch, Werdum would yank his head down into a knee. Before long, Nelson was bleeding heavily from the many knees.

Though he landed some knees on Browne, Werdum often turned to his kicks against the 6'7" heavyweight. He occasionally went high, but Werdum did most of his damage his body kicks. After the bout, it came out that one of Werdum's body kicks broke Browne's rib, which obviously hindered his conditioning.

Another excellent combination of kicks and punches stems from Werdum's inside leg kick. After kicking his opponent out of their stance, Werdum will follow up with a series of hard punches. Then, Werdum often ends with another kick. Notably, Werdum managed to stop Mike Russow by following up an inside low kick with a jab before stepping into a powerful uppercut.

Outside of his strong round kicks, Werdum is always attempting flashier moves, with varying degrees of effectiveness. His back leg teep kick is quite powerful and an excellent tool for the lanky heavyweight. On the other hand, his spinning wheel kick attempts have yet to accomplish much.

Due to his excellent jiu-jitsu, Werdum is utterly unafraid of being taken down. This allows him to kick freely, as he's more than confident that he'll win any grappling exchanges should his opponent look to catch a kick and bring the fight to the mat.

Finally, Werdum's ability to throw off his opponent's defense with taunts and mind games is pretty unique. Werdum routinely does bizarre things in the middle of the fight -- such as pointing up at the mat, talking, announcing the 10 second mark, or making strange faces -- to unnerve his opponent. Then, he steps forward and lands easy punches on his confused opponent.

Defensively, Werdum showcased some serious improvement. His main issue was and still is defending himself from against the fence, but Werdum managed to avoid getting pinned to the fence with his lateral movement more often than not against Browne.


A Judo black belt, Werdum actually has some pretty slick takedowns in his toolbox. At this point, wrestling is probably the weakest part of Werdum's game, but he's still far ahead of most heavyweights.

Occasionally, Werdum will work from within the clinch for a takedown. Using his height, Werdum manipulates his opponent's movements easily. After controlling his opponent against the fence, Werdum will suddenly turn his opponent and attempt a trip.

Werdum often shoots for takedowns as well. Prior to his bout with Browne, Werdum mostly relied on the single leg. For the most part, Werdum drops down from the clinch, ensuring he has a grip on his opponent. From there, Werdum attempts to finish with his head on the inside and twists his opponent. If that failed, he looks to trip up his opponent's remaining leg.

In his bout with Browne, Werdum frequently looked for the double leg. He finished it off the initial shot a couple times but also chained his attempts together well. As Browne went to sprawl, Werdum would circle around him and look to drag him to the mat from there.

Once on top, Werdum's control is suffocating. Though his ground strikes are not one punch knockout threat, he can finish an opponent via strikes simply because they can't escape a dominant position.

Simply put, Werdum doesn't see a need to defend takedowns. He so dangerous from his back that he invites his opponent's to take top position, as he's attacking with either a sweep or submission just moments after.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Werdum, a second-degree black belt, is one of the most credentialed grapplers in the UFC, having took gold in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC), Mundials, and Pan-Ams. More importantly, Werdum has proved a number of times that his jiu-jitsu has translated into MMA wonderfully.

What guard Werdum uses largely depends on how his opponent is grappling and what Werdum is looking to accomplish. To sweep or stand up against an opponent willing to engage, Werdum will rely on the butterfly guard, which allows him to elevate his opponent's hips. With all that newly created space, Werdum can often sweep his opponent, or at least scramble up to his feet.

If his opponent is more hesitant to grapple, Werdum still has a couple of options. While resting on his back, Werdum will occasionally play around with the De La Riva guard. I won't get into detail on that position, as Werdum has yet to use it to sweep his opponent, only to stall and prevent his foe from landing ground strikes.

Alternatively, Werdum will suddenly sit up and latch onto his opponent's leg. If he can, Werdum will stand up directly into his single leg and work from there. When his opponent prevents this, Werdum will spin under to deep half guard. From the deep half, Werdum escapes out the back door and lands in top position. Werdum hits this sweep often and against quality opponents, such as Antonio Silva and Travis Browne.

To attack with submissions, Werdum will first lock up a closed guard, ensuring his foe cannot easily pull away. Then, he'll suddenly swivel his hips or climb his legs high up on his opponent's shoulder. With these movements, Werdum can create opportunities for arm bars, triangles, or kimuras.

Werdum thrives with opponents willing to grapple with him. The best example of this is his incredible victory over Fedor Emelianenko. "The Last Emperor" was willing to fight Werdum on the mat and paid for it, as Werdum countered Emelianenko's attempts to pass with a triangle choke. It only took one quick mistake on Emelianenko's part, and Werdum suddenly became the first man to hold a legitimate win over the Russian.

More recently, Nogueira willingly engaged Werdum on the mat. Attempting to utilize his trademark half guard sweeps, Nogueira remained a step behind Werdum throughout the fight. Each time Nogueira transitioned into a deep half, Werdum was able to spin back into Nogueira and cut through his guard.

In the second round, Nogueira turtled up to avoid having his guard passed by Werdum again. As he did, Werdum slipped a hook in and moved towards taking the back. To defend, Nogueira stripped off one of Werdum's hooks and attempted to shake him off, but "Vai Cavalo" simply transitioned to an armbar.

Just like that, Werdum added another legendary name to his resume.

Best chance for success

Against Hunt, Werdum has a couple paths to victory. Hunt is an excellent striker, but Werdum has the tools to hurt him on the feet.

He simply has to be very careful while he does so.

Werdum's defense is not the best when he pressures with punches, meaning there is a home for Hunt's counter left hook. However, that just means Werdum must be wary of the strike, fully extend his punches, and kick more frequently. Hunt has had some difficulty with low kicks recently, and Werdum definitely has the kicks to make him pay for it.

Of course, if Werdum sees an opportunity to force a grappling exchange, he should take it.

Even if he can't get a quick takedown, Werdum could just pull guard. Hunt is insanely aggressive on the mat and would likely follow him to the ground. That would be quite the mistake, as Werdum can undoubtedly sweep or submit Hunt from his back pretty quickly.

Will Werdum win the interim strap, or can Mark Hunt continue his improbable success?

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