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The Monday After: Final thoughts on UFC 188

Bloody fights, high altitude and a new Heavyweight champion. Let's take one last look at the memorable moments that took place in Mexico City, Mexico, this past Saturday.

Photo by Esther Lin for

We had to wait almost two years to see Cain Velasquez get back into the Octagon to defend his Heavyweight title. The lengthy layoff didn't deter most of us from believing he would take care of business at UFC 180 on Saturday night (June 13, 2015) against Fabricio Werdum in the promotion's return trip to Mexico City, Mexico.

After seeing Velasquez dispatch of Junior dos Santos twice and another drubbing of Antonio Silva between those two, most assumed the end was result was inevitable: Cain was gonna Cain. And it didn't matter if he was out almost two years or not.

Except, Cain got out-Cain'ed by his Brazilian counterpart and lost the division title for the second time in his career (watch highlights here).

He was whipped in the stand up portion of the bout, getting bloodied and tagged repeatedly with big punches and knees from the clinch. That forced him into a desperate and sloppy takedown where he put his neck on a platter for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Werdum's nickname, "Vai Cavalo," is Portuguese for "Go Horse," but it may as well stand for "Dragon Slayer" because he's the lone fighter to defeat both Velasquez and Fedor Emelianenko. Werdum is also the first UFC interim heavyweight champion to unify the two titles. He has now won all six of his fights in UFC since his return and deserves all the praise that has already headed his way.

Perhaps we were all paying too much attention to what Velasquez had done instead of what Werdum was capable of doing.

Of course, everyone is talking about the altitude in Mexico City and the effect it had on Velasquez. He was in the same altitude as Velasquez, but clearly more prepared from fighting Mark Hunt in the same arena at UFC 180 and holding most of his training camp in Mexico City to prepare for UFC 188.

Was it part of the reason Velasquez lost? Sure, but you cannot take anything away from Werdum's victory.

As Velasquez said at the post-fight press conference, Werdum was the better man. And now the 18th reign of the UFC Heavyweight championship begins. And by the way, no Heavyweight champion has ever defended the belt three times in a row.

Now, let's take a final look back at the latest pay-per-view (PPV) event:

Welcome to Werdum

A truly outstanding performance by the Brazilian, who becomes the 14th UFC heavyweight champion (18th reign) in the promotion's history. Werdum took some big shots early, but gave them back and as the fight grew longer, he proved to be better suited for the harsh altitude of Mexico City. His stand up looked outstanding and just lit up Velasquez on the feet, forcing him to try and take the fight to the ground. Once Werdum got a hold of Velasquez's neck in the guillotine that was a wrap.

Velasquez didn't seem fully prepared for the altitude or Werdum's game plan on top of being out of action for the last 20 months, but that is not the full reason he lost the title. Werdum said he was in Mexico City for over a month before the fight as opposed to Velasquez being down there for two weeks.

So, he had an advantage there, but Velasquez has trained there and worked out there before too. Altitude wasn't the reason Velasquez was getting drilled with punches the whole fight. You can make the argument--as many are already--that the fight would be different outside of Mexico, but let's not forget, Werdum would be better outside of Mexico, too.

Sidebar: MMAMania's Jesse Holland and myself were in Denver, Colo., for GLORY 16 and walking from the hotel across the street to Dave and Busters for the weigh ins was an arduous task.

I don't see a rematch happening anytime soon because of Werdum finishing the fight and Velasquez having held the division hostage with his injuries the last two years. Hopefully, both fighters are back in action sooner rather than later. Junior dos Santos could be up next for Werdum, or the No. 3-ranked Stipe Miocic. For Velasquez, that will be interesting. Perhaps they give him Arlovski, or since he's coming off a loss, Travis Browne. Velasquez is still one of the best in the world and it shouldn't be long before he's back in title contention again.

Werdum is already being lauded as an all-time great, but I'm not sure that he is. Does he have two of the greatest wins at heavyweight of all time? 100 percent, but to be great you have to have some longevity. Let's see what he does as the champ before we start taking all-time greatness.

One-eyed Eddie Alvarez gets it done

It sure wasn't looking good for the former Bellator Lightweight champion after he ate a couple of vicious elbows from Gilbert Melendez in the first round of the co-main event on Saturday, but Alvarez turned it around to win the split decision (highlights).

Melendez was fading and just doesn't look like the same fighter he once was. Alvarez looked far from great, but there is something to be said for his toughness and durability and being able to find a way to win. Not to mention his left eye was just about closed shut after the first round. Alvarez should break into the Top 5 of the 155-pound rankings with the win, so perhaps Khabib Nurmagomedov or Benson Henderson are up next.

The end of Nate Marquardt?

It's never a good sign when a fighter calls it a day on his stool in between rounds, and that was the case for the former UFC middleweight title contender in a technical knockout loss to Kelvin Gastelum (recap).

Marquardt managed to survive the second round drubbing from Gastellum, but had nothing left in the tank afterward. That's back-to-back losses for him and five defeats in his last six fights. At 36, the end of his career is looming.

Gastelum should stay at 185

Gastelum looked great against Marquardt, but once again, the talk was his desire to go back down to 170 pounds where he has missed weight two out of five times (once by 10 pounds). I'm with UFC president Dana White on this one, Gastelum should stay at Middleweight. It's the division in which he won The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and the division that appears to be better suited for him weight and size wise.

Also, to further White's point, if he was really going to show he could be at 170 with no issue, why didn't he come in below 185 for this fight? Not too far down where he'd give up an advantage to Marquardt, but say 182 or 183 pounds. Weight cutting continues to be an issue in the sport. I'd rather see Gastelum and many other fighters stay in a weigh class where they don't have to kill themselves to make weight.

Fight of the Night: Rodriguez splits Rosa

Man, this fight was fun to watch. Both Yair Rodriguez and Charles Rosa earned $50,000 for their efforts and deservedly so (recap).

Rodriguez nearly locked up a triangle choke early on in the fight, but Rosa would manage to fight out of it and survive. Rodriguez showcased some great and unorthodox striking with his taekwondo background and landed a double kick that made the Mexican crowd erupt. Rodriguez continued to get the better of Rosa, landing big shots and bloodying the Massachusetts native's face, but the ATT Featherweight proved his toughness and stayed in the fight and kept pressing forward until the final bell.

Rodriguez, who was a TUF: "Latin America" winner, showcased a fun and exciting style and was a pleasant surprise on the UFC 188 card and a welcome addition among the featherweight ranks. Rosa, who submitted Sean Soriano in his last fight, shouldn't see his stock drop too far after this loss. He stayed the course and showed he can be part of exciting fights. The bosses tend to love that kind of stuff. The future looks bright for both prospects going forward.

Henry Cejud-no

Time to pump the brakes on Henry Cejudo being the next contender for Demetrious Johnson. Cejudo got the win over Chico Camus, but looked far from impressive. Camus stuffed all of Cejudo's takedown attempts and only ended up on the bottom when he chose to stay there after losing his footing in the third round. Camus looked solid on his feet and his takedown defense against an Olympic wrestler was just superb. Cejudo couldn't get his wrestling going and didn't really offer up anything creative or overpowering in his standup. He won't be fighting for the flyweight title any time soon. Camus won't be making a big leap up in the rankings, but shouldn't lose much ground either.

Strange (and new) times in UFC

Since Dec. 2014, five UFC titles have changed hands. Robbie Lawler at Welterweight, Rafael dos Anjos at Lightweight, Joanna Jedrezejczyk at Strawweight, Daniel Cormier at Light Heavyweight and now Fabricio Werdum at Heavyweight.

That is a ridiculous turnover.

We have officially entered a whole new UFC era. And more title turnover could still be coming.

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