Knuckleup Fitness Head Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor Ricardo Murgel has a special connection with new UFC Champ Fabricio Werdum. Back in 2006 Murgel trained Werdum for his victory in Japan against Alexander Emelianenko. Last Saturday night at UFC 188, Werdum defeated Cain Velasquez to become the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion. I spoke to Master Murgel about his insights into the fight.
“In short, Velasquez was not prepared to fight at the high altitude in Mexico City,” summarized Murgel. “ His main strength has always been his conditioning which allows him to apply pressure to his opponents non stop but Saturday night you could see from the first round that he was getting tired at a rate he wasn’t used to. “
Murgel theorized that Velasquez’s strategy going into the match had been to keep the fight standing up early and not go to the ground with Werdum, who has submitted many top fighters in his career from his back, including the great Fedor Emelianenko.
In the past similar strategies have worked well for Velasquez, who likes to wear his opponents down on the feet and in the clinch for a couple of rounds before taking them down in the later rounds and dominating them with his ground and pound.
On Saturday night, however, he was fighting in Mexico City, which is at 7,000 feet above sea level. Velasquez normally trains at sea level at American Kickboxing Academy in San Diego, California. Murgel says that if an athlete doesn’t give his body time to acclimatize to the lower oxygen in the air at high altitude then even well-conditioned ones can become exhausted quickly. Werdum, in contrast to Velasquez, moved his camp to Mexico City two months ago and had plenty of time to adjust.
In addition to having better cardio than Velasquez, Werdum also thoroughly out struck him. He bloodied Velasquez in the first round as he was trying to close the distance and then punished the Mexican American fighter with knees from the clinch when Velasquez was able to get close.
“Werdum has always been an extremely talented Jiu Jitsu player but you can really see a dramatic improvement in his striking over the last several years,“ commented Master Murgel.
Murgel suspects that Cain had never experienced the type of fatigue he did Saturday night and might have panicked.
“In my opinion Velasquez grew desperate in the third. He executed a very basic maneuver poorly and Werdum, who is a top submission fighter, caught him with the most basic counter there is; the guillotine.”
I asked Master Murgel, who is one of the highest ranked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Masters in the World, how precisely Velasquez made the mistake.
“What happened is that he went for a basic double leg takedown and instead of being explosive and driving through the takedown with his whole body he drove sloppily with his head and got caught. This is a mistake a fighter at his level should not be making in a World Title fight. “
I asked Master Murgel if Cain would do better in a rematch, one that was held at sea level. He seemed to think the outcome of a rematch might be different saying cryptically, “ I’m not sure how long Werdum will stay Champion because he is already 38 years old. But for right now, he deserves all the credit for a sensational victory. As the saying goes, ‘the king is dead long live the new king.’ ”
Why is this man smiling?
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