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Memo to UFC champions: You are not safe

With Fabricio Werdum unifying the heavyweight titles at UFC 188 last weekend, disposing of former champion Cain Velasquez in the third round of their main event battle with a guillotine choke, he became the fifth new champ to be crowned in the last 12 months.

Photo by Tracy Lee for Combat Lifestyle

Gone are the days of an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) universe in which Anderson Silva reigned supreme and Georges St-Pierre dominated.

The current UFC climate is much more volatile, a bit more hairy.

New contenders seem to sprout up and populate the ranks of the fight conglomerate's 10 weight divisions throughout each passing year. No champion is safe. Not even the man formerly known as the baddest dude on the planet, Cain Velasquez.

At the UFC 188 pay-per-view (catch the fallout here), the mixed martial arts (MMA) world witnessed the rise of yet another past promotional castoff in the Brazilian Fabricio Werdum, as well as the one-sided dismissal of a fighter once deemed previously unbeatable by a lot of folks, the former Heavyweight champion Velasquez.

Tip your hat to Werdum.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old beat down (and choked out) the proud Mexican-American before a legion of his own fans in Mexico City, Mexico, notching his sixth-straight victory in the process. His striking as crisp as ever. His cardio on full display.

Werdum called it "the best moment of his life," becoming the ninth fighter to hold the 265-pound belt. He also became the fifth new titleholder on UFC's roster in the last 12 months.

Think about that. Are we watching professional wrestling or the UFC?

In 2015 alone, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Daniel Cormier and Rafael dos Anjos all turned the UFC landscape upside-down, giving Las Vegas oddsmakers hell in the process. Robbie Lawler snatched the welterweight strap from rival Johny Hendricks in Dec. 2014. Heck, T.J. Dillashaw scored the upset of the year in the eyes of many in May 2014, but that was over a year ago.

What makes things even more scary is that four of the five newly-crowned champs finished their respective opponents in each bout.

Werdum, with his lopsided title win, drove home an excellent point. Fighters must be on their toes. There can be no stone left unturned ... preparation must be meticulous.

Maybe the altitude in Mexico City did get to Velasquez as it did to so many fighters. Maybe he should have made it out earlier to train in the environment. Regardless, there are no excuses. Velasquez will come back an improved fighter because of the setback.

Werdum's recent UFC success has been predicated on his hands; something he sorely lacked during his first tenure with the company. The growth he has made, through the expert vision and training of legendary striking coach Rafael Cordeiro, is astounding.

It was a long road to redemption for the jiu-jitsu ace.

The one-time Chutebox general and current Kings MMA head coach transformed the offensive arsenal's of not only Werdum but also Dos Anjos'. The championship pair each have multiple UFC knockout wins, while under the tutelage of the renowned Muay Thai black belt.

Dos Anjos ran away with an emphatic lightweight title win over a masterful striker in Anthony Pettis at UFC 185. The 30-year-old cracked "Showtime" with a right hand early, then proceeded to batter and bruise the Roufusport product every which way the fight went.

It was a complete and utter mauling.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that there are no more gods. No more Silva's, or St. Pierre's. Even the most dangerous of fighters can be brought down to Earth and humbled on any given Saturday.

Fighters break down, deteriorate, get injured or suffer from the incredible amount of pressure bestowed upon them to perform in the Octagon.

Divisions are now stacked to the brim with legitimate threats ... or at least a few notable title-worthy candidates. It's a far cry from where UFC used to be during the heydays of Frank Mir and Tito Ortiz.

No longer are fighters known simply as knockout artists or jiu-jitsu wizards. They must encompass a well-rounded skill-set to achieve their title aspirations, let alone come close to knocking on the door.

What would happen if a prime Chuck Liddell met a Jon Jones in this current UFC era?

Well, one could imagine he would probably be at a disadvantage because of his less refined bag of tricks (or not). That is not to say he would perform inadequately, but as times change, and fighters get better, those around them need to adapt.

It would be wise.

We have seen the work that Werdum and dos Anjos have put in. Former UFC middleweight title challenger Thales Leites is another name that comes to mind. The 33-year-old is as hot as anybody in the promotion right now and is a winner of his previous eight fights.

There was a point in time when all Leites attempted to do was drag a foe to the canvas and look to cinch up an arm, or lock up a choke. The Andre Pederneiras-trained fighter starched Francis Carmont and Trevor Smith with punches in 2014.

There are countless other multi-talented names like Neil Magny, Tony Ferguson, Henry Cejudo, Charles Oliveira and Thomas Almeida already in the process of, or about to be, ravaging the competition.

Suddenly, with Velasquez dethroned, UFC's heavyweight division is chock full of possibilities. Stipe Miocic and Andrei Arlovski have put together impressive resumes over the last year. Then, there is former champ Junior dos Santos waiting patiently for his next shot at the belt.

UFC President Dana White may opt to place JDS into a title match with Werdum, who he once defeated, later this year while Miocic and Arlovski duke it out in a No. 1 contender spot. Who is Velasquez going to try and bounce back against ... Travis Browne?

So while we yearn for better drug testing, and increased fighter pay, can we learn to appreciate the fine sport of MMA and how far it has come? Dana White and the Fertitta brothers went from holding 20 shows in 2008 to nearly tripling that amount in 2014. We are also on the brink of passing legislation to legalize the sport in New York.

Here's hoping for more unpredictability for years to come because, usually, too much of a good thing is a nice problem to have.

Jose Aldo, you are now officially on the clock.

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