In 2011, Strikeforce visited Dallas in an event headlined by Alistair Overreem taking on Fabricio Werdum. Werdum was coming off an immortal performance where he tapped out MMA deity Fedor Emelianenko. The expectations for the Stirkeforce main event in Dallas were supercharged, and they lost steam, as Werdum butt-scooted around the cage, begging for Overreem to lose his mind and jump into Werdum’s guard. It didn’t happen, and the boos rained down on both men for the lackluster showing. It was clear that Werdum was too intimidated to stand. What Werdum did on the Fox card Saturday night in Orlando effectively turned that 2011 version of himself into a ghost.
OF THE NIGHT PERFORMANCES
Browne was the heavy favorite going into the showdown. Most MMA pundits gave Browne the nod due to his striking and his conditioning. However, he was also the more active fighter as tonight was only the fourth time Werdum has fought since his loss to Overreem in 2011. Werdum threw ungodly combos at Browne, who never seemed to get comfortable the entire fight. At times, Browne was so outclassed, he looked to be headhunting simply trying to put Werdum in a bad spot but only putting himself in a bad place. Early in the fight, Browne floored Werdum, and Big John looked to be close to stepping in. Instead, Werdum snuck out, worked his way off the cage and to his feet, grabbed his bearings, and jabbed his way to victory.
It’s clear that Fabricio Werdum used his time not fighting to build upon the striking display he showed against Roy Nelson. In addition, his cardio also looked on point as he seemed to be more than fresh going into the 4th and 5th, jawing at Browne and smack taking him to simply keep things interesting. There’s no other way to put it than Werdum toyed with Browne, peppering him with jabs and combos when he felt like it, and easing off the gas just because he could. In fact Werdum did a lot of things just because he could. At one point, a Werdum did a kip up, channelling Shawn Michaels:
I was one of many in the MMA community who thought Werdum had nothing to offer Browne. Werdum barely had time to bask in the glow of his performance and earned shot against Cain Velasquez before the MMA community was again quick to count him out. In fact, despite Werdum’s one-sided victory, the only thing he was getting credit for was speaking better Spanish than Cain Velasquez. I don’t know if I’m sold on Werdum beating Cain, but I am completely sold it will be a more entertaining fight than what I could have predicted 24 hours ago.
The sun rises in the east. Donald Cerrone wins bonus checks. Book it.
Even though the fight itself didn’t get out of the first round, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone delivered the kind of drama and tension you’d normally see in a Hitchcock film. Edson hit Cowboy early and often with solid shots and punctuated leg kicks. At one point, Cerrone looked stunned and grimaced as one of Barboza’s shots stuck his body. Cerrone regained his composure and landed a short jab that walloped Barboza. Before Barboza knew what hit him, Cowboy went to the ground, slipped in the hooks, and snaked in a deep rear-naked choke. And just like that, Cowboy picked up another performance check.
Cerrone expressed interest that he wanted to fight at least six times this calendar year. Coming out of the Barboza fight unscathed and with a spectacular performance gives him the kind of cache he needs to make good on that request. Nothing says Cowboy like Texas. To see Cerrone get back on the horse and throw his hat into the ring for the for the San Antonio card in late June seems like a great next step since the card is still under construction. The last time Cerrone fought in Alamo City, he and Benson Henderson put on a fight for the ages. Seeing Cowboy ride into San Antonio once again after a few weeks off for wake boarding, bull riding, skydiving, lion taming, and beer drinking would be a welcome treat for both Texans and UFC fans.
“ATT Rises to the Top”
The MMA gods looked down upon American Top Team with great favor Saturday night. The camp at ATT represented by Yoel Romero, Jorge Masvidal, and Thiago Alves all picked up impressive wins for themselves and their team Saturday. Whatever they are putting into the water in Coconut Creek, they should bottle it.
Romero, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, tossed Brad Tavares around the octagon in what can only be described at a mauling. It really was something animalistic in the way Romero flung Tavares around. In the second round, you could hear the shrieks from Fox network executives as Romero threw a gorgeous left elbow, splitting Tavares open at the hairline. The blood unwound from Tavares’s head like ribbon from a spool, and before he could adjust, Romero again tossed him to the ground.
At 36, Romero displayed old-man strength. He also displayed why he is ready for a bigger challenge. He’s won four fights in a row in the middleweight division, a feat only accomplished by one other contender, Vitor Belfort, the same Vitor Belfort who turned down a title fight against Chris Weidman. He may not be ready for the champ, but Romero may be ready for the upper-echelon of that division, starting with Jacare Souza.
In addition to the showing by Romero, Jorge Masvidal displayed gorgeous striking, taking the center of the Octagon against notorious grinder Pat Healy. Healy’s M.O. is to make it ugly, and each time he bullied Masvidal to the cage, it appeared to be an elephant man-like performance. But Masvidal was too pretty for that and managed to escape time and again. While the fight itself wasn’t pretty, it was entertaining, particularly when the Masvidal got loose in the center of the cage. If Masvidal comes out of the fight without any major injury, seeing him get a quick turnaround could help to build some consistency from a fighter who has seen limited action. In fact, Masvidal and Cerrone would be a fan-pleasing fight, despite its lack of import.
In the end, the night belonged to Thiago Alves, and rightfully so. After missing more than two years due to four major surgeries, Alves, who has had trouble making weight in the past due to his solid frame, looked like a legit welterweight. The ATT water I talked about earlier must also make the guys at ATT rust-resistant. Alves looked like he picked up where he left off last time he was in the cage (before he got choked out by Martin Kampman, I mean). He hammered at Seth Baczynski repeatedly with leg kicks that left a game Baczynski bloodied and almost broken. In the third, Baczynski literally fought on one leg and still managed to make a proper showing, peppering Alves with some solid jabs. In the end, the punishment form Alves proved to be too much.
The emotion of Alves was palpable as he tried to explain how good it felt to be back in the cage after a long absence. In fact, the same emotion was on clear display in the locker room of all the ATT fighters as Romero came back after beating Tavares. They embraced. They chanted. They cheered. They were a family, and the night belonged to them.