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Grudge Match: Coaches predict Velasquez vs. Werdum


The long-awaited heavyweight title unification fight between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum heads to UFC 188 this weekend, but who will emerge with the belt? Three of MMA's top coaches give their predictions.

William Abreu

Two-time IBJJF no-gi world champion

"Many people don’t know how great Fabricio Werdum is. He’s beaten some of the top players in jiu-jitsu. Since he got into the MMA scene in 2002 he’s been able to refine his jiu-jitsu to fit the MMA world. So he’s got size, a great submission-grappling pedigree and he’s shown it’s effective.

"Cain Velasquez has been in the UFC for years at the highest level of the sport, so his game has been refined also. We haven’t been able to see his jiu-jitsu because they usually play him against strikers, so we already know his takedowns and striking are already up to par.

"He’s always pushing forward and usually ends up on top. Werdum will probably be able to make that a weak point because he’s very good off of his back. Velasquez likes to be on top, but with Fabricio’s long legs you know he’s going to be very comfortable on the ground. He’s very good at capitalizing on the smallest mistakes and bringing the fight into his world."

"That being said, Velasquez has the sort of athleticism and agility you rarely see in a grappler. He doesn’t have the same pedigree as Werdum in terms of submission grappling, decide where the fight goes."

Winner: Cain Velasquez

Edmond Tarverdyan

Head coach at Glendale Fight Club

"I love that Cain puts a lot of punches together. He has a lot of heart and is very consistent with the amount of strikes he throws. You don’t see that a lot in the heavyweight division. We’ve seen that he has power in his strikes but when he’s not doing that he’s still throwing a lot of punches.

"As for Fabricio, he’s obviously getting much better with his striking and we saw that when he fought Travis (Browne). I look forward to having that rematch one day. However, Fabricio was getting caught with a lot of punches from Mark Hunt during their fight. Yes, he landed the knee but if you look at how that fi ght was going he didn’t look as good as he should’ve. He was getting caught with that overhand right and it dropped him.

"Striking-wise I’m going to have to go with Cain for this fight."

Winner: Cain Velasquez

Jamie Franco

Wrestling coach at Longo-Weidman MMA

"The heavyweights are always a tricky one. You’ve got one guy in Cain who is a great wrestler and then you’ve got Fabricio who will want this fight on the ground. On paper, Fabricio shouldn’t be able to take Cain down but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to take him down.

"If Fabricio is going to get the fight to the ground, he’s going to need to set up his takedowns with strikes. You’re not going to take down a good wrestler just by shooting in.

"I see it happen all the time in sparring sessions. We’ll bring in a Division I wrestler for sparring and he’ll be facing an MMA fighter who is able to get takedowns because he does a better job of committing to the takedowns at the right time. I think the timing of the takedown is going to be huge for this fight.

"If either guy is able to slip their punches and find a small opening, we’ll see a lot of high-level single-legs without them having to commit too much and overextend themselves. In that matchup, this is going to be the biggest thing.

"Also, wrestlers can control the action and Cain will have a choice as to where the fight takes place. If he wants to keep it standing then it’ll stay standing, but if he feels comfortable on the fl oor he’ll take it to the ground.

"I can see Cain faking to take him down and then landing some strikes. Us wrestlers stick together so I’m going to go with Cain for this fight."

Winner: Cain Velasquez

This article was first published inside Fighters Only magazine (issue 129). Read more predictions from MMA's top coaches on the biggest upcoming fights in our regular 'Grudge Match' feature inside every issue.